Sunday, May 22, 2011

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Where She Went (If I Stay, #2)Where She Went by Gayle Forman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is the followup to If I Stay, and begins three years after Mia's accident.  Told from Adam's viewpoint, we find out what has happened with him over the years.

When the book starts, he and Mia are NOT together, and haven't been since shortly after she moved away to go to Julliard.  He has become a rock star, but isn't close to the rest of the band anymore.  He feels very isolated and depressed and is beginning to question whether he wants to continue playing with his band.

The break-up with Mia has left him feeling very lost, and even though he's tried to move on, he is finally realizing that's he's miserable.  As he nears the end of his rope, he runs into her - and begins to finally find a way to heal.

While not as good as If I Stay, Where She Went is still very well written and absorbing. 

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The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

The Kitchen HouseThe Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have such mixed feelings about this book.  The good:  It's an excellent read.  The writing is great and I loved the characters.  It was a can't-put-down read!

The bad, though:  I couldn't help but thinking OMG, how much more cr*p are these people going to have to deal with???  In one book, we have murders, rapes, incest, child molestation, alcoholism, drug abuse, adultery, insanity, stillbirths and miscarriages, and just plain old miscellaneous deaths.  It was just too much.  Way too much!  In fact, it was so much that after just the first quarter of the book, I didn't even feel that emotional about it anymore.  Parts of the book that should have been guaranteed tear-jerkers left me feeling emotionally void - I was on overload.

Now, all that said -- I also don't like other authors that are very popular, who I feel play deliberately on emotions (Jodi Picoult comes to mind).  So if you are a fan of that type of fiction, then by all means grab this one up - you'll love it! It really is well-written with great characters and a great story. 

But if you want more subtlety, you may want to skip this one.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First - this is the 2nd time I've read this book, and it was even better the second time around.  For those who don't know, this is a story of a young girl living in Nazi Germany, but it is Death who is telling the story.

This book is absolutely haunting.  From the first page to the last, you are drawn in to Death's story of Leisel.  He first sees her as a young girl on the way to her foster parents, and he tells her story over the next 4 years or so, as Germany is at war.

Be prepared to cry and laugh, and in some parts of the book, your heart will break.  This is not a quick, easy read but one that deserves an intense focus. 

By far, this is one of the best books I've ever read.

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Bought Some Books Yesterday!

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

Product Description

A  "heartbreakingly delicious" national bestseller about a chef, her students, and the evocative lessons that food teaches about life

Once a month, eight students gather in Lillian's restaurant for a cooking class. Among them is Claire, a young woman coming to terms with her new identity as a mother; Tom, a lawyer whose life has been overturned by loss; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer adapting to life in America; and Carl and Helen, a long-married couple whose union contains surprises the rest of the class would never suspect...

The students have come to learn the art behind Lillian's soulful dishes, but it soon becomes clear that each seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. And soon they are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of what they create.

This book is one of my absolute favorites - and even though I've read it before, when I saw it at the thrift store, I grabbed it to keep on my keeper shelf for a reread, and then I'll be sure to share it with someone.

  The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

Book Description
The long-awaited new novel from Margaret Atwood.
The Year of the Flood is a dystopic masterpiece and a testament to her visionary power.

The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thin as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God's Gardeners--a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, as well as the preservation of all plant and animal life--has long predicted a natural disaster that will alter Earth as we know it. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women have survived: Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, a God's Gardener barricaded inside a luxurious spa where many of the treatments are edible.

Have others survived? Ren's bioartist friend Amanda? Zeb, her eco-fighter stepfather? Her onetime lover, Jimmy? Or the murderous Painballers, survivors of the mutual-elimination Painball prison? Not to mention the shadowy, corrupt policing force of the ruling powers...

Meanwhile, gene-spliced life forms are proliferating: the lion/lamb blends, the Mo'hair sheep with human hair, the pigs with human brain tissue. As Adam One and his intrepid hemp-clad band make their way through this strange new world, Ren and Toby will have to decide on their next move. They can't stay locked away...

By turns dark, tender, violent, thoughtful, and uneasily hilarious, The Year of the Flood is Atwood at her most brilliant and inventive.

I haven't read Oryx and Crake yet, but it's on my very short TBR pile.  Now that I have this follow-up, I think I'm going to set aside some time to dive in and then I can pass them both along.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf

These Things HiddenThese Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As much as I loved Gudenkauf's first novel, The Weight of Silence, I think this one is so much better.

Told from the perspective of four women whose lives are interwoven. Allison, recently released from prison, is trying to build a life after serving 5 years for the murder of her newborn baby. Brianna, her sister, refuses to speak to her, and is dealing with serious issues of her own. Claire, the adoptive mother of Joshua, owns a bookstore and gives Allison a job there. And Charm, who has befriended Claire, but has ulterior motives for doing so.

As events unfold bringing these four women together, we see the events that led up to Allison's incarceration and the heartbreak that all four women have endured over the years.

The writing is wonderful, making this a book that was so hard to put down. I look forward to more books by this author!

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Monday, May 2, 2011

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay (If I Stay, #1)If I Stay by Gayle Forman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very moving story about a young girl who is hovering on the edge of death, laying in the ICU following a horrible car accident.

As she watches from outside her body, she realizes that she must decide whether to stay or let go. Her family and friends are keeping watch, and praying, and hoping. She watches them, but doesn't know if she can come back to them.

The story goes from the present to the past, offering glimpses into her life with her parents and younger brother, and touching on various defining moments in her young life.

As she struggles with a literal life and death decision, the reader struggles along too. When she finally makes her choice, it is heart-wrenching, but absolutely the right choice for her.

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