All posts by Kelly

My Real Children

Finished My Real Children by Jo Walton.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

It’s 2015, and Patricia Cowan is very old. “Confused today,” read the notes clipped to the end of her bed. She forgets things she should know—what year it is, major events in the lives of her children. But she remembers things that don’t seem possible. She remembers marrying Mark and having four children. And she remembers not marrying Mark and raising three children with Bee instead. She remembers the bomb that killed President Kennedy in 1963, and she remembers Kennedy in 1964, declining to run again after the nuclear exchange that took out Miami and Kiev.

Her childhood, her years at Oxford during the Second World War—those were solid things. But after that, did she marry Mark or not? Did her friends all call her Trish, or Pat? Had she been a housewife who escaped a terrible marriage after her children were grown, or a successful travel writer with homes in Britain and Italy? And the moon outside her window: does it host a benign research station, or a command post bristling with nuclear missiles?

Two lives, two worlds, two versions of modern history. Each with their loves and losses, their sorrows and triumphs. My Real Children is the tale of both of Patricia Cowan’s lives…and of how every life means the entire world.”

This book was not even on my radar when it was handsold to me (in a manner of speaking) on the afternoon of the last day of BEA.  I wish I had gotten the name of the lady at the Tor booth because I would send her the world’s nicest email.  (If she sees this somehow,  THANK YOU.)

First, a caveat: this book does not have a tidy ending.  Instead, you will have to decide what you think happens.  This makes me love the book more; you may have a completely different feeling about it.

But here’s what we know for sure: Patricia has lived two lives. In one, she married a man and had four children; in another, she had one of the world’s best love stories and three children.  In the first life, her personal life is not great but the world is pretty fantastic; in the second life, the opposite is true.

This book is absolute perfection and thought-provoking.  I do think that choices we make can impact the world and I find it oddly comforting to think that maybe there are alternate worlds where things are a little bit different (and, hopefully, better).

Yes, this review is vague; discover this book on your own.  I promise you won’t regret it.

Highly, highly recommended.

Magnolia

Finished Magnolia by Kristi Cook.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In Magnolia Branch, Mississippi, the Cafferty and Marsden families are southern royalty. Neighbors since the Civil War, the families have shared vacations, holidays, backyard barbecues, and the overwhelming desire to unite their two clans by marriage. So when a baby boy and girl were born to the families at the same time, the perfect opportunity seemed to have finally arrived.

Jemma Cafferty and Ryder Marsden have no intention of giving in to their parents’ wishes. They’re only seventeen, for goodness’ sake, not to mention that one little problem: They hate each other! Jemma can’t stand Ryder’s nauseating golden-boy persona, and Ryder would like nothing better than to pretend stubborn Jemma doesn’t exist.

But when a violent storm ravages Magnolia Branch, it unearths Jemma’s and Ryder’s true feelings for each other as the two discover that the line between love and hate may be thin enough to risk crossing over.”

I absolutely loved the concept behind this book.  I feel like I’ve read about 50,000 books where people who shouldn’t be in love are and it was very refreshing to read about people who should be in love but aren’t.  (Well, until they are.)

I liked Ryder and I loved Jemma’s friends, although we didn’t spend very much time with them.

The person we spent the most time with was Jemma (the book is told from her perspective) and that’s unfortunate because I really didn’t like Jemma.  I thought she was incredibly selfish and thoughtless and prone to letting down other people instead of inconveniencing herself.  At the same time, she was also pretty passive and had a tendency to go along with things instead of actually saying how she felt.  (For example, she went out on a couple dates with Patrick, who she liked but didn’t LIKE. Most teenage girls would get the difference.)

Still, this is an incredibly unique book and I loved the way the plot unfolded.  This is my first Kristi Cook book and I’m very interested in seeing what else she’s done.

Counting By 7s

Finished Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (by Goodreads):

In the tradition of Out of My Mind, Wonder, and Mockingbird, this is an intensely moving middle grade novel about being an outsider, coping with loss, and discovering the true meaning of family.

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life… until now.

Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.“

Okay, first, it took me forever to read this book.  (Don’t make the same mistake I did; this book is amazing.)

This book sounds like it could absolutely break your heart, but the weird thing is, it doesn’t.  Instead, Willow manages to find a way to go on and to create a new family. It’s not that she replaces her parents—she doesn’t, and she knows that she can’t and even beyond that, she doesn’t want to.  She loved her parents and they’re gone.  But she isn’t, and that means that she needs to find people to live with until she’s 18 and, hopefully, people who will be okay with the fact that she sees things differently than most people.

And oh, you guys, I love Willow.  I can see how she’d be hard to live with sometimes but she’s also this amazing, sweet girl.  (I am guessing she’s somewhere on the autism spectrum although we’re never told this.)

This is one of those books that you will absolutely fall in love with.

Highly recommended.

Books I’m Excited For

I feel like one of the best and worst things about being a book blogger is the fact that there are always new books coming out.  It’s awesome because there’s always something exciting to read.  And it’s horrible because no matter how much time you have, you’re never going to be able to read everything.

So here are some books that have been out for a while that I haven’t read that I sincerely hope to get to soon.

1)  Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau (I loved the first two books and am really excited to get to this).

2)  Carsick by John Waters (a Baltimore must!)

3)  The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult (the only book of hers I haven’t read)

4) Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige (so many people have loved it and I’ve even met the author)

5) The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (I feel like it’s obligatory and I haven’t read it)

This is by no means a complete list.  My TBR stacks are actually so out of control that I’ve decided to not preorder books unless I’m going to read them right away.  (Because I tend to buy books when they first come out and then not read them.  For example, I bought The Storyteller when it first came out for $15 on my Kindle.  It’s currently on sale for $5. So.)

Five Days Left

Finished Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Destined to be a book club favorite, a heart-wrenching debut about two people who must decide how much they’re willing to sacrifice for love.

Mara Nichols, a successful lawyer, and devoted wife and adoptive mother, has recently been diagnosed with a terminal disease. Scott Coffman, a middle school teacher, has been fostering an eight-year-old boy while the boy’s mother serves a jail sentence. Scott and Mara both have five days left until they must say good-bye to the ones they love the most. Through their stories, Julie Lawson Timmer explores the individual limits of human endurance, the power of relationships, and that sometimes loving someone means holding on, and sometimes it means letting go.

For the most part, I absolutely loved this book.  I thought it was incredibly well-written and I loved the plot (with its questions of what I would do if I had a terminal illness and knew the decline was starting to get faster and what I would do if I thought I was going to have to lose someone that I had raised for a year).  This is a fantastic book, one that I genuinely think people should read.  (And it’s ideal for book clubs.)

And then there was this: Mara says she believes that, because her daughter is adopted, she won’t be completely devastated when she’s gone.  She believes that she is essentially just a replacement for her daughter’s biological mom and that means that when her husband eventually remarries, her daughter will probably be fine with it because the stepmom will be a replacement for the replacement.

I obviously get that Mara is saying that because it’s what she wants to believe.  She wants to believe that her daughter will be okay, so that she can kill herself with as little guilt as possible.  She doesn’t really mean it; she’s just saying it because it’s the only way she can justify it.

And yet.

I’m adopted and my dad died when I was in high school.  There was no part of me that thought, “Well, at least I still have my real dad, somewhere out in the world.”  My real dad is the guy that raised me, and I don’t care that we aren’t related by blood.  I love my maternal biological family and I treasure my relationship with them, but it’s not the same as the relationship I had with my dad or that I have with my mom and the rest of my family.  And even though I get that Mara was just trying to tell all the lies she had to tell to be able to continue on, I resent everything that she said.

But that’s one paragraph in an otherwise amazing story.  I still recommend it.

The Barter

Finished The Barter by Siobhan Adcock.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A heart-stopping tale as provocative as is suspenseful, about two conflicted women, separated by one hundred years, and bound by an unthinkable sacrifice.

The Barter is a ghost story and a love story, a riveting emotional tale that also explores motherhood and work and feminism. Set in Texas, in present day, and at the turn of the twentieth century, the novel follows two young mothers at the turning point of their lives.

Bridget has given up her career as an attorney to raise her daughter, joining a cadre of stay-at-home mothers seeking fulfillment in a quiet suburb. But for Bridget, some crucial part of the exchange is absent: Something she loves and needs. And now a terrifying presence has entered her home; only nobody but Bridget can feel it.

On a farm in 1902, a young city bride takes a farmer husband. The marriage bed will become both crucible and anvil as Rebecca first allows, then negates, the powerful erotic connection between them. She turns her back on John to give all her love to their child. Much will occur in this cold house, none of it good.

As Siobhan Adcock crosscuts these stories with mounting tension, each woman arrives at a terrible ordeal of her own making, tinged with love and fear and dread. What will they sacrifice to save their families—and themselves? Readers will slow down to enjoy the gorgeous language, then speed up to see what happens next in a plot that thrums with the weight of decision—and its explosive consequences.”

This is a ghost story that isn’t at all scary.  (So basically it’s a ghost story for people who are pretty sure they don’t actually want to read a ghost story.)

It’s told from altering perspectives (Bridget in present day; Rebecca in the early 1900s) and each are women who are married with young children.  Bridget’s marriage is happy; Rebecca’s much less so.  The story deals with the sacrifices the women are (and are not) making for their families.

I think there’s a lot here to discuss and I would especially be interested in how people view Rebecca.  She’s not a very sympathetic character (at all) but I found myself liking her almost against my will.

I enjoyed this book but at the same time, it was very much a middle of the road read.  It’s not something I NEEDED to read, the kind of book where I had to keep going (instead of stopping to eat or sleep) but at the same time, I very much enjoyed the characters and my time with them. Does that make sense? I’m interested to see what Siobhan Adcock does next; I have a feeling she’s going to become a must-read author of mine but she’s not there yet.

The Secret Place

Finished The Secret Place by Tana French.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, on the grounds of a girls’ boarding school in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. The caption says, I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.

Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin’s Murder Squad—and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings him this photo. The Secret Place, a board where the girls at St. Kilda’s School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why.

But everything they discover leads them back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends and their fierce enemies, a rival clique—and to the tangled web of relationships that bound all the girls to Chris Harper. Every step in their direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephen’s links to the Mackey family. St. Kilda’s will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Holly’s father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points toward his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined.

The Secret Place is a powerful, haunting exploration of friendship and loyalty, and a gripping addition to the Dublin Murder Squad series.”

This is my first Tana French novel and I’ve heard amazing things about her and her books.  It seems like pretty much every single person I know is absolutely in love with them.  (So I was very excited to get a copy at ALA and, after that mysteriously disappeared, to get a copy through Penguin’s First to Read program.)

I was instantly drawn into this book, which goes back and forth in time and has two viewpoints (Holly and her friends in the past and Stephen in the present)…and then I hit a subplot that kind of ruined the book for me.  (SPOILER: Holly and her friends seem to all develop some kind of psychic ability.  I can deal with one Carrie but not with four of them.  Obviously I can’t share if/how that subplot was resolved.)

After that, the book lost of a lot of credibility with me and even though that’s a very minor part of the book, I was like, “WHAT?!” and it affected everything else.

I would definitely read another book of hers but this one was a bit of a letdown.

Things I’m Obsessed With

Welcome to the latest Things I’m Obsessed With!

Books:

I have all these amazing books ahead of me to read and I feel so incredibly lucky to be a book blogger and to get to read so many of them early.  Fellow bloggers, do you ever feel that way? Like you look at your TBR stack and just think, “Holy crap, there are so many! But they all look so amazing and they’re all mine!” And I feel especially blessed that publishers and authors and publicists value my opinion enough to seek it out for a review.  It’s overwhelming in the best possible way, but I hope I never forget how lucky I am.  And I get to go to BEA every year!  (Starting in 2016, I get an extra week vacation at the day job, and I plan to start trying to go to ALA every year it’s on the East Coast or in Chicago.  I think West Coast ALAs would be too expensive, but East Coast ones? Yes, please!)

Movies:

I have been on a bit of a horror movie kick recently (always) and am completely obsessed with the movie Oculus.  It has so many of my triggers in horror movies (weird things in mirrors, weird things happening to faces, weird things happening to eyes and things happening to your teeth) and it’s a completely confusing movie that keeps you completely off-kilter.  It’s amazing and I love it.

Also, we’re about a month away from the big Halloween boxset release on Blu-Ray and I am SO EXCITED.  I feel like movie for movie, this is the best horror series ever.  There are only two movies that I think are pretty bad (and one of them, Halloween 6, is redeemed by the producer’s cut, WHICH IS INCLUDED IN THE DELUXE BOXSET!).  Nightmare on Elm Street may be my favorite but I think Halloween is the best.

Life:

I have currently discovered the joy of nuts.com (thanks to my friend Erin).  Everything I’ve ordered from them has been amazing and I have a hard time saying exactly what my favorite thing is.  I love the peanut butter cups and the caramel puffs and the black cherry gummy bears and and and and and.  (Yeah, they have a lot of healthy snacks as well, but I haven’t tried those.  I DID get their marshmallow bits, however, which is basically like a bag full of the marshmallows from Lucky Charms with none of the gross cereal parts.  And it’s just as awesome as you’d expect it to be.)

So what are you obsessed with this week?

Dangerous Boys

Finished Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas.  I received a copy for review from the author.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Three teens venture into the abandoned Monroe estate one night; hours later, only two emerge from the burning wreckage. Chloe drags one Reznick brother to safety, unconscious and bleeding; the other is left to burn, dead in the fire. But which brother survives? And is his death a tragic accident? Desperate self-defense? Or murder?
Chloe is the only one with the answers. As the fire rages, and police and parents demand the truth, she struggles to piece together the story of how they got there-a story of jealousy, twisted passion, and the darkness that lurks behind even the most beautiful of faces…

I’m going to be honest, I have no idea how to do this review.  For most of the book, we don’t know (a) how we got to the events where one brother is dead, (b) whether the other brother will survive or (c) which brother is definitely dead and which is likely to die.  I’m afraid to say anything that will ruin those reveals for you.

So here’s what I WILL say: last year, Abigail Haas wrote Dangerous Girls (the two books are unrelated) which is also a compelling, impossible-to-put-down read.  I’m not sure if she has any plans to write another book like this, but I sincerely hope she does.  This seems to be her absolute sweet spot as a novelist and this book absolutely blew my mind.

This book is currently only available in e-book format and if you’ve ever taken my advice on anything, read this book.  It’s fun and creepy and just brilliant.

Highly recommended.