Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Before I Fall...

I actually finished Before I Fall several days ago but have been mulling it over for this review ever since. I think what I wanted to say a few days ago is not precisely what I'll say now, and possibly if I wrote this review sometime in the future, I'd have something else entirely to say then. But for now, it is what it is.
The premise of Before I Fall is riveting: senior Sam Kingston is a member of the popular crowd at her school, has a hot boyfriend, and is seemingly cruising through life, a bit drunk and looking for a laugh. We follow a typical day in her life: Cupid Day (which I guess is somehow related to Valentine's Day) at school, hanging with her friends, heading off to a party while planning that night to be "the" night with her boyfriend Rob. And then...Sam dies in a car wreck. And the next thing she knows, she's waking up to relive the entire day again...and again...and again, a full week's worth of time as she discovers that the smallest things can entirely change outcomes in the most major ways.
I have a love/hate relationship with this book. I love the premise, and I love the idea that Sam knows what's happening and how she can make changes so that her life and the lives of others are changed forever. I love her growing awareness that she and her friends are really not nice people, and I love Kent McFuller, the boy Sam realizes she should have been with. I love some of the changes that Sam makes, which are outrageous but understandable; why not throw caution to the wind if you know how it's all going to turn out anyway? I love the idea that somehow you can get it right before it's too late.
Hates, though...well, as mentioned, Sam and her friends are really not nice people and while changes are made, they don't necessarily redeem the girls. I hated the whole idea of easy alcohol and unsuspecting parents (true to life or not), and I hated that the adults seemed to have let Sam down most. The writing is good but the plot drags at times as it struggles to make Sam relive her last day repeatedly. And, on a purely personal level, as a parent, I hate that young lives are lost and families are destroyed.
All that said, I have to say this may be one of the most thought provoking books I've read in a very long time. It's not sweet and it's not happy, though there are glimpses of both in its pages. But it is sure to stay with me for a very long time as I try to sort through what went wrong for Sam and what went right. Not easy reading, but definitely worth it. Be prepared for an emotion filled experience. A solid 4.5 stars that I'm rounding up to 5 for impact.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Silver Borne (A Mercy Thompson Novel)

Silver Borne, Book # 5 in Patricia Briggs's Mercy Thompson series, finds Mercy where she often is: embroiled in a mystery involving the fae while trying to maintain some sense of normalcy in her own life. This time Mercy's borrowed a book from her friend Phin but someone (or something) wants it so badly that they are willing to kidnap Phin and kill Mercy in order to get it. At the same time, our favorite skinwalker/mechanic also is dealing with pack issues, the serious depression of her friend Samuel, and problems with the family of her teen garage helper, Gabriel. This being Mercy, she doesn't just sit back and let things happen; she marches full force into her problems and takes charge. Mercy is nothing if not determined and loyal.
There are lots of stories going on in Silver Borne, and at times the mystical item being sought by the fae isn't the main problem. A good deal of time is spent on Adam and the pack, and Mercy's determination to buy Samuel time to fight back from his suicidal tendencies. Though Mercy and Adam's relationship has never been stronger, the bonds are tested between the two as Mercy realizes that it is going to be up to her to assure herself a place in the pack. Silver Borne is indeed a mystery, but first and foremost, it's about character and relationship development, and the pack issues highlight what is important.
Silver Borne showcases many of the characters we've grown to know over the course of the series, including Zee, Jesse, and various pack members (but no Stefan, sadly). While at times it almost feels like two separate books, Ms. Briggs does a great job of bringing all the elements together near the end (if indeed it does feel a bit rushed). Mercy's my kind of character and this series is showing depth that makes me wish other writers would take note of how to tell a story. I would really rate this one 4.5 stars if possible. Recommended...but a bit disappointed in having to wait so long for the next one!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

A Secret Affair

It's been a few years since I've read any historical romance, mainly because quite a bit of what is written lately seems to be short on detail and long on purple prose. But when I saw this novel by Mary Balogh, I decided I'd give it a try since a couple of my book twins really enjoy her work (and I know how picky they are). After finishing A Secret Affair this afternoon, I can say without reservation that this was indeed an enjoyable escapist read, perfect for a sunny day on a porch swing.

The storyline for A Secret Affair is pretty standard: After a year spent mourning her much older husband, the Duchess of Dunbarton is back for the London Season and is determined to take a lover of her choosing. Enter Constantine Huxtable, general rake and equal cynist when it comes to the idea of love. Neither one wants a long term relationship, though both harbor secrets that keep their hearts locked up. Naturally they fall in love despite themselves with minor missteps along the way and the discovery of what is truly important in life.

A Secret Affair is well written and fun, and Ms. Balogh has a very engaging style that allows you to get inside the heads of her characters and understand their actions (however stubborn they might be). She unveils the layers slowly and yet still manages to give a good sense of the time period and its restrictions. Perfectly light and yet thoughtful, I found myself smiling as the story drew to its predictable close. Though A Secret Affair is the final book of a series, I'm intrigued enough with the style and depth of this writer to go back and read from the first to see what I've missed. I have a feeling I've discovered an author I'm going to be enjoying for a long time to come.


Saturday, April 03, 2010

This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer

It's been almost a year since an asteroid crashed into the Earth's moon, sending it just a bit closer to Earth and causing violent disruptions resulting in flooding, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes. Miranda Evans and her family have faced the year of deprivation in their home in Pennsylvania by accepting once weekly food deliveries from what's left of the government and pillaging the abandoned homes nearby. Life goes on, though sometimes it seems hopeless when so many are dying and there is no relief from the constant hunger and lack of electricity. Still, it's the life Miranda, her mother and two brothers have come to know, which is security in itself; then things change yet again when Miranda's brother Matt returns from a fishing trip with a wife and Miranda's father shows up with not only his wife and child, but three more people. How will they cope? How can they share? Will there ever be a return to a sense of normalcy?
This World We Live In is the third and final book in Susan Beth Pfeffer's trilogy about a catastrophe that changes everything. The book pretty much picks up not long after book one (book two being a companion story of Alex and his sister Julie, both of whom are in book three) and many of the same desperate situations still face the Evans family. Though things will never be the same, Miranda does begin to experience her first taste of love when she gets to know Alex, and her concerns are not so different than a normal teen's on many levels. The addition of the new characters to the Evans mix gives life to the idea of going to one of the secret "safe towns" and Miranda and her family have to determine what sort of world they will make out of the ashes of the one long gone.
This book is well told and utterly believable; I could see events transpiring precisely as Ms.Pfeffer depicts, and Miranda's musings are typical of anyone facing serious crisis in family and survival. In fact, I was loving this novel right up until the final three or four chapters when it seemed that the author just didn't know how to get her characters out of the bind they'd found themselves in. The ending just didn't seem to make a lot of sense to me and I just could not buy that characters who had struggled so long would make such life altering decisions when there were other options available. Still, this is a fascinating look at what would likely happen if such a natural disaster took place, and Ms. Pfeffer does give her characters complex emotions amid devastating circumstances. Recommended...with reservations about the final ending.
One last observation that really has nothing to do with the novel but bugs me just the same (and probably shows how shallow I am): Every time I look at the cover of this novel, I see a giant breast, not a moon. It was also the first thing my husband pointed out about the book when he saw me reading it. Am I alone in this observation? If so, that's okay, but I just felt the need to say someone needed to think about the cover art. Just sayin'.