We Are Unprepared Book Cover We Are Unprepared
Meg Little Reilly
Fiction
Mira
August 30, 2016
Advanced Reader Copy
368
Publisher via BEA

Ash and Pia's move from Brooklyn to the bucolic hills of Vermont was supposed to be a fresh start—a picturesque farmhouse, mindful lifestyle, maybe even children. But just three months in, news breaks of a devastating superstorm expected in the coming months. Fear of the impending disaster divides their tight-knit rural town and exposes the chasms in Ash and Pia's marriage. Ash seeks common ground with those who believe in working together for the common good. Pia teams up with "preppers" who want to go off the grid and war with the rest of the locals over whom to trust and how to protect themselves. Where Isole had once been a town of old farm families, yuppie transplants and beloved rednecks, they divide into paranoid preppers, religious fanatics and government tools.

My review:

I must admit that my main reason for reading this book is that it takes place in Vermont, where I lived for thirty five years. I've certainly been through my share of super-storms living there, but now that I'm in the south, we have hurricanes and ice storms 🙂  There is basically no getting around the weather, but how prepared are we when disaster is looming? Ash and Pia have moved to Vermont (from Brooklyn) to live a more rural life. Their first few months after moving in, they learn about a storm due to hit their tiny town that very first winter. They both have very different reactions to the impending disaster, and this is at the crux of the story. Having dealt with storms in both parts of the country, I found this part of the book fascinating. There is also a sweet part of the story where Ash tries to care for the neglected seven year old neighbor, and the sweet elderly lady down the road.  I do wish that the actual storm had started a bit earlier in the book, and that we had more detailed follow-up to what happens to the town and its people after.

If you tend to watch the weather channel waiting for news of any of these super-storms, I think you will enjoy this one. A great look at small townfolk and ways of preparing for "the big one". An eye opener in these days of global warming and climate change.

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hohohorat2016What a fun week of reading! I even managed to finish ALL the books I had picked out, so high five to me 🙂 Here is the final wrap-up, including a short review, rating, and page count of my chosen books. Click on the titles to be taken to the Goodreads page for more information.

These are the five books that I selected this year:

img_1570Winter Storms by Elin Hilderbrand:

Page count: 256
Rating: 4/5 stars

The third in the series (Winter Street and Winter Stroll preceded this one). I love this family, and was so excited to step back into their world for another Christmas story! It's a typical Hilderbrand novel, with all the family drama and love. While this can be a stand-alone, if you are thinking about reading the series, you will want to read them in order to avoid spoilers.

The Hundred Gifts by Jennifer Scott:

Page count: 384
Rating: 5/5 stars

My favorite of the books I read! The main character was a woman my age, it was about a cooking class, and the ladies who attend said class. Along with the cooking, they take on a mission to provide holiday cheer to a grumpy old lady who lives upstairs from the class building. There is humor, sadness, great characters, life questions, and more. Truly a treat!

The Christmas Secret by Donna VanLiere:

Page count: 291
Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Sweet story about a down on her luck mother who moves to a new town and makes a fresh start during the holiday season. Lots of lovely characters, maybe just a tad sappy at times, but it is the holiday season 🙂

The Christmas Party by Carole Matthews:

Page count: 417
Rating: 4/5 stars

Great tale about an office Christmas party with all the ensuing drama and cast of characters. When I say characters.....oh my, there are some doozies here! Really funny moments, although a bit far fetched at times, make for a delightful read with a satisfying ending.

I Heart Christmas by Lindsey Kelk:

Page count: 369
Rating: 3/5 stars

This book had great promise, it was so funny at times, but ended up being my least favorite due to the unbelievably immature behavior of the main protagonist. There was only so much of the partying lifestyle I wanted to read about, so I had to knock off a star. Otherwise, the plot and humor made this a winner, but probably would appeal more to a younger adult audience.

And there you have it, another successful HoHoHoRAT! Can't wait to start my holiday season off again next year by participating. Thanks to Kimberly at CaffeinatedReviewer.com for hosting.

Total books read: 5
Total page count: 1717

 

 

 

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hohohorat2016

Yay! I love this one! I get to dig out my holiday themed books and spend the week enjoying the festiveness of the upcoming season! This will be my third year participating in this event, brought to you by Kimberly @ Caffeinatedreviewer.com. Many thanks to her for hosting. For all the information you need to follow along with us, click on the following:

Ho-Ho-Ho Readathon November 9th-15th Signup

Here is what I've got planned for choices. I may or may not make it through all of these in six days, but that doesn't mean that I still won't finish them before the holidays roll around.

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I'll keep you updated on my progress. Who else is joining us in this fun tradition?

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The Book that Matters Most Book Cover The Book that Matters Most
Ann Hood
Fiction
W. W. Norton & Company
August 9, 2016
Advanced Reader Copy
358
Publisher via BEA

Ava’s twenty-five-year marriage has fallen apart, and her two grown children are pursuing their own lives outside of the country. Ava joins a book group, not only for her love of reading but also out of sheer desperation for companionship. The group’s goal throughout the year is for each member to present the book that matters most to them. Ava rediscovers a mysterious book from her childhood—one that helped her through the traumas of the untimely deaths of her sister and mother. Alternating with Ava’s story is that of her troubled daughter Maggie, who, living in Paris, descends into a destructive relationship with an older man. Ava’s mission to find that book and its enigmatic author takes her on a quest that unravels the secrets of her past and offers her and Maggie the chance to remake their lives.

My review:

3.5 stars

The premise for this book deserves all the accolades in the world from me. A bookclub decides to choose a book each month for a year that is a defining book for each of its members. During the course of the book, the reader gets to see what book each member chose, and why that book mattered the most to them. I loved this idea, and I loved all the parts in the book that related to this (even if I hadn't read all the books chosen). I so wanted to stay with the book club members and find out more about their lives, but the book, while it does come back to the meetings every month, takes a different path. The main character decides to choose a book from her childhood that she can no longer find anywhere, leading to a mystery of sorts. Concurrently, the daughter of the main character has her own problems while living in France, which I felt was part of the book to help facilitate the end. Both of these stories did not inspire me the way the book club stories did, and the ending was so tied up and rosy that it felt ridiculous. This was a fast read, and the pacing was good. While the writing will not win any literary praise, it was readable and relatable.

I would recommend this book for the book club theme, which I felt was its strong point. The parts that I didn't enjoy as much, while lowering my overall review, would not keep me from recommending it as a light, quick read that will get you thinking:

What book would I choose as the book that matters most to me?

I'm going to go with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which was the book I read in 8th grade that started me on my path to loving books! What about you?

 

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The Mothers Book Cover The Mothers
Brit Bennett
Literary fiction
Riverhead books
October 11, 2016
Advanced Reader Copy
288
Publisher via BEA

It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance—and the subsequent cover-up—will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt.

My review:

This book was one of the five chosen as the editor's fall picks at BEA. Upon reading this book, I could easily see why. The writing is absolutely beautiful! Here is a line from the very beginning of the book, to give you a sense of what follows:

"Grief was not a line, carrying you infinitely further from loss. You never knew when you would be sling-shot backward into its grip."

The mothers in this story are actually all members of the local church. They get together for bible group, and of course like to chat about what's going on in their church community. These impressions are woven into the novel in a very clever way, although they are not the main focus. The book is really about three people over the course of about ten years. Two are best friends, who have the fact that they are both motherless in common, and the other is the pastor's son, who weaves in and out of their lives throughout the story. It's about a secret (which the reader is privy to from the beginning), and how that effects their lives throughout the book. Mostly it's about how the main character deals with being left by a loved one, and ultimately carrying on the loss, guilt, and shame. I wish the book had been just a bit longer, so that we could have even more depth given to the characters, but I am still so impressed by the writing that I'm going to chock my criticism up to the fact that I just wanted to read more!

A must read, gorgeously written debut novel (yes, it's a debut, and the author is only 25!). I cannot wait to see what Ms. Bennett comes up with next.

 

 

 

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Small Great Things Book Cover Small Great Things
Jodi Picoult
Fiction
Ballantine Books
October 11, 2016
Advanced Reader Copy
480
Publisher via BEA

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years' experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she's been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don't want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy's counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other's trust, and come to see that what they've been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

My review:

Praise the lord, she's BACK! The most difficult review I've ever done on this site was the one for Jodi Picoult's last book Leaving Time. Suffice it to say, I was not a fan, but since I am such a fan of hers, the review pained me to write. At the same time, as a book reviewer, I felt that it needed to be written. I don't want every one of my reviews to be all rosy because that is not my purpose. I want to expose my readers to my opinions on the books I read, and they cannot all be winners. As I said at the conclusion of that review, I was not ready to give up on reading Picoult's books, and thank goodness I didn't. I have high praise for this one! I loved the writing, the plot, the characters, the pacing, the fact that we get to go back into a courtroom, and most of all.......this book, as all of her books, makes you think about your opinions and reactions to major events going on in the world today. I will say that I am probably exactly the demographic that this book was written for. A white woman who sees herself as not having racial prejudices. I though the character of Ruth (a woman of color) was convincing and well written, but I'm not sure how this book will be received by those who do not have my skin color and privilege. The only negative I could give would be that I thought the end was a bit too tidy. Speaking of the end, there is always a twist in Picoult's novels, one which I never figure out until it's revealed. Thanks to my background in laboratory science, I was so proud of myself for getting this one 🙂

A fantastic fictionalized look at race in America, most specifically targeted at those of us who think we are not prejudiced, this is Picoult at her best. A treat of a book not to be missed.

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Today Will Be Different Book Cover Today Will Be Different
Maria Semple
Fiction
Little, Brown
October 4, 2016
Advanced Reader Copy
272
Publisher via BEA

A brilliant novel from the author of Where'd You Go, Bernadette, about a day in the life of Eleanor Flood, forced to abandon her small ambitions and awake to a strange, new future. Eleanor knows she's a mess. But today, she will tackle the little things. She will shower and get dressed. She will have her poetry and yoga lessons after dropping off her son, Timby. She won't swear. She will initiate sex with her husband, Joe. But before she can put her modest plan into action-life happens. Today, it turns out, is the day Timby has decided to fake sick to weasel his way into his mother's company. It's also the day Joe has chosen to tell his office-but not Eleanor-that he's on vacation. Just when it seems like things can't go more awry, an encounter with a former colleague produces a graphic memoir whose dramatic tale threatens to reveal a buried family secret. TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT is a hilarious, heart-filled story about reinvention, sisterhood, and how sometimes it takes facing up to our former selves to truly begin living.

My review:

I can usually tell when a book just isn't working for me when I'm not motivated to pick it up in my spare time. Such was the case with this one. I loved the author's first book (Where'd You Go, Bernadette) because of its quirky, funny, engaging storyline. While there were some snippets of that in this one (the Costco scene was probably my favorite), I felt it was overall kind of a lackluster story. I wasn't particularly fond of the main character Eleanor. Once again, I really didn't dislike her, just found her to be kind of meh. I did enjoy her son Timby, but unfortunately that didn't sway me enough to care about what ultimately happens to the family by the end of the day. I had high hopes for this one that were kind of dashed. Who doesn't want to start each day with a list of things you'd like to do differently to better yourself and those around you? I did finish this one, hoping for some humor or something to spark my interest, but ultimately the story just wasn't compelling enough to drive me to that finish.

Lots of great reviews for this one, so check those out before making a decision. This may have been a classic case of "it's not you, it's me". I won't let this cloud my decision for any future books by Semple. An author can't hit it out of the park with me every time.

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The Underground Railroad Book Cover The Underground Railroad
Colson Whitehead
Literary fiction
Doubleday Books
August 2, 2016
Advanced Reader Copy
306
Publisher via BEA

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood - where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead's ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor - engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar's first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven - but the city's placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

My review:

I should probably be up front in this review and reveal that books about slavery (or that contain any parts about it within their pages) are almost always a sure hit for me. Recent reads that I also loved were Homegoing, and The House Girl. Yes, they are difficult to read, but so necessary, especially in light of what's going on in our country today. This is literally a story about a slave who breaks free, and takes to the underground railroad to find her freedom. I was so invested in the story, that I didn't even catch on to the fact that Whitehead uses an actual railroad (with tracks, trains, and engineers) as a metaphor, that the actual underground railroad did not consist of trains running underneath the country....duh! I was completely sucked into Cora's quest, and terrified on her behalf throughout most of the book. I did read a few reviews pointing to the lack of character development, and while I can see where they are coming from, I think the book might have ended up dragging a bit with having to develop all the people Cora came into contact with. I was satisfied that we did find out the fate of most of these folks by the end, not that I was happy with the majority of it. I just loved the writing in this book. It was informative, lovely without being over the top descriptive, and gave a nice flow to the plot.

I loved this one, but then again I did warn you that this is my kind of book. Anyone have any suggestions for other books about slavery (fictionalized please) that I can add to my ever growing to be read pile? Pick this one up for the writing, and for the importance in our history.

 

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The Things We Wish Were True Book Cover The Things We Wish Were True
Marybeth Mayhew Whalen
Fiction
Lake Union Publishing
September 1, 2016
Paperback
276
Publisher via She Reads

In an idyllic small-town neighborhood, a near tragedy triggers a series of dark revelations. From the outside, Sycamore Glen, North Carolina, might look like the perfect all-American neighborhood. But behind the white picket fences lies a web of secrets that reach from house to house. Up and down the streets, neighbors quietly bear the weight of their own pasts until an accident at the community pool upsets the delicate equilibrium. And when tragic circumstances compel a woman to return to Sycamore Glen after years of self-imposed banishment, the tangle of the neighbors intertwined lives begins to unravel. During the course of a sweltering summer, long-buried secrets are revealed, and the neighbors learn that it s impossible to really know those closest to us. But is it impossible to love and forgive them?"

My review:

An enjoyable, light read about a neighborhood dealing with a crisis, and several secrets, during the course of one summer. I thought the characters were well drawn, or as well as they could be since the book has a lot of them. It had nice pacing, I never felt that it dragged, although I was invested in some plot lines more than others. I liked the plot twists, the major one I figured out, but it didn't take away from my enjoyment of the story. The only real complaint I had was that it seemed there were just too many characters who harbored secrets. The first few chapters we are thrown hints about every single character having a secret. It would have seemed more believable to me to have a few "regular folks" thrown into the mix. I was very satisfied with the ending, even if it did tie everything up rather nicely.

This book reminded me of a shorter, lighter version of Liane Moriarty's latest, and that's not a bad comparison to have made for any book! This would be great to tuck in your suitcase for a weekend away, where something heavy and long just doesn't usually suffice.

This book is the September read for the She Reads book club. Click the link in my sidebar to be taken to their blog, which has lots of great book talk and suggestions. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy. As always, my opinions are my own.

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The Orphan Mother Book Cover The Orphan Mother
Robert Hicks
Literary fiction
Grand Central Publishing
September 13, 2016
Advanced Reader Copy
320
Publisher via BEA

In the years following the Civil War, Mariah Reddick, former slave to Carrie McGavock--the "Widow of the South"--has quietly built a new life for herself as a midwife to the women of Franklin, Tennessee. But when her ambitious, politically minded grown son, Theopolis, is murdered, Mariah--no stranger to loss--finds her world once more breaking apart. How could this happen? Who wanted him dead?
Mariah's journey to uncover the truth leads her to unexpected people--including George Tole, a recent arrival to town, fleeing a difficult past of his own--and forces her to confront the truths of her own past. Brimming with the vivid prose and historical research that has won Robert Hicks recognition as a "master storyteller"

My review:

This book is a companion book to a previous novel by the author entitled The Widow of the South. I must mention that I have not read that novel, so I'm not sure if that would affect my view of this particular story. Some of the characters are intertwined, particularly Mrs. McGavock. I liked this book, but I didn't love it. At times I thought the writing was beautiful, and at others I felt that it bogged down the plot and was there just to be beautiful, not to solidify the story. I loved the race relations parts of the book, and would have loved even more of that and less of the meandering around with Mariah trying to find out who killed her son (which is already revealed to the reader near the book's beginning). The relationship between Tole and Mariah could have been expounded on a bit more, and it got a bit crazy toward the end. A bit more resolution for some of the remaining townspeople would have been of interest to me. In the end I would say that I found some parts of this book very interesting and thought provoking, and other parts I could have done without. The writing was beautiful, but at times it hindered the story rather than enhancing it.

A book worth reading if you enjoy the period following the Civil War, or if you have read the previous book. Some parts were lovely, while other parts had me meandering through. A book I would recommend with reservations, depending on your interests.