Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Book Reviews - Catching Up on the Future

I took this round of (e)reads to clear out some of my advanced copies that have been on my (virtual) shelf for a minute and/or awhile. Some of these will be out later, and some are already released because #toomanybookstoreadinmylifeprobs. Read on. . .

Ghoster by Jason Arnopp was a book I really liked for the first quarter. Kate meets Scott on a social media detox retreat, and they start a relationship. Things seem to be going well, and Kate and Scott are due to move in together. The day this is due to happen, Scott disappears. Kate is left with an empty apartment where she finds Scott's phone. She's sworn off social media due to her addiction, but she also knows this could have the answers of why she's been seemingly ghosted. So, that sounds like an intriguing premise, right? Well, that's where the focus starts. Then, the book just went all kind of directions, and it just didn't gel with me at all. I found myself doing lots of "Wait, what" and "Really?!? REALLY?!?!" as I read. I found I was then reading not so much because I was captivated, but I just wanted some resolution, and that took a minute given this one was nearly 500 pages. The premise of this one was really intriguing to me, but what actually went down was just so far from what I was hoping to get out of reading. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look in exchange for my (always) honest review.

Read this book if - You want something where literally nothing is at it seems - and then some.

The Peacock Detectives by Carly Nugent advertises itself as the story of Cassie whose trying to find out what happened to her neighbors' peacocks. Y'all, this is so, so, SO very much more than that. While this is how Cassie's story starts, it covers a great deal as she is navigating some complicated stuff. What especially resonated with me was the theme of mental health that was masterfully done. I loved the care and honesty that was given to this topic, as Cassie show struggles in others, while also managing some feels of her own. If you're looking for a book that could start a conversation on this topic, this could be it. Cassie is also navigating some tough family dynamics, bullying, and an ill grandparent. Each of these happenings are shown from Cassie's perspective which is powerful. Throughout she is working on her story, so she processes each development in real time, and y'all, again, it's just beautiful. I loved how authentic and real Cassie's story was. This one gave voice to stuff kids are definitely experiencing and can't always make sense of. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at what I thought was going to a lighthearted book, but instead gave me so, so much more. 

Read this book if - You want a middle grade read that honestly explores the emotions around some real life tough stuff. You want a book to give voice to stuff that does happen to kids, but isn't always in books.

Like Nothing Amazing Ever Happened by Emily Blejwas was a beautiful story told through grief and trying to make sense of the middle school world. Justin's dad dies tragically, and it leaves Justin with so many questions and emotions. He misses his dad, while realizing there is so much he didn't know about him (but wants to), and finds he especially wants to know more about what happened on the last day of his life. Along with him, Justin's brother and mom are also navigating their new normal as a family of three. This is complicated as they are each grieving the loss and trying to figure out how to contribute to their household. Finally, Justin is a middle schooler, and with that, there's all the middle school things going down as he struggles to find his place and his people. He is particularly hesitant to engage in activities that remind him of his dad, and that is hard for others to understand. For a middle grade read, this packed an incredible amount of punch related to emotion. This is set against the Gulf War, and Justin's dad was also a veteran suffering from PTSD, and both of these things drive the plot and associated emotions in different ways. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this April 2020 release. This is one of those books that will stay with you in its feels and characters for sure.

Read this book if - You want a middle grade read with honest and raw emotion. You want a book that masterfully examines grief.

Best Friends Forever by Dawn Goodwin is a book about flawed characters and an extremely flawed friendship. This is one of those books where you just don't like the characters, and it's like reading an especially scandalous Lifetime movie. This the story of Anna and Vicky who have been, well, best friends forever. Anna has been tragically killed, and Vicky shows up at her house to help David, her husband, and two young children. However, David senses something is just not right with Vicky's insertion into their lives. The book goes back in time to show the evolution of Anna and Vicky's friendship, and there are heaping helpings of problematic dynamics and situations in that y'all. In real time, it is David trying to make sense of what happened to his wife, why Vicky has taken the role she has, and how the two might be related. I really like a plot that uses the past and the present to weave a story together, and this was very much that. This is also used to build more complete pictures of the characters, and that does mean lots of secrets and lies are revealed. I would also offer strong content warnings as there are instances of sexual assault, abuse, and very unhealthy relationships. Thanks to NetGalley for access to this read in exchange for my review.

Read this book if - You want something that is overflowing with lies and deceit?

Until next time!

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Book Reviews - Dystopia on Sesame Street?

Each time I start one of these posts, I think about how I hoped this was going to be the time I read on a theme. And then, AND THEN. . . I don't. At least with this round, I could generate a comical title given the extreme variance? So, here we go with another quartet.

The Importance of Being Ernie and Bert by Bert and Ernie was a book I adored. I could have told you that was going to be the case before reading a page. However, this was also so much more wonderful than I anticipated! The book focuses on the friendship of Bert and Ernie through their individual personalities as it showcases some aspect of life from each of their lenses. I found myself chuckling at so many of these because they are just so very well done. This book perfectly captures the essence of both Bert and Ernie, and as an adult (and lifelong fan) I loved how their characters shone through. Again, this book was perfect. I could say this over and over (and I kind of have), but y'all, this is just one of those reads that is guaranteed to make you smile.

Read this book if - You are a superfan of Bert and Ernie. You just need something to put a smile on your face. 

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood was a return to the world of Gilead. This is a book that had me captivated from its first pages to the very end. I could not read fast enough because I was so drawn in, but also I was so drawn in, I didn't want this book to be over. The tone of this one is different than The Handmaid's Tale, but definitely still full of all the dystopia. This book focuses on three women - each in a different situation - that are connected, but it's not immediately revealed how. The plot is then driven by each of these three tales told in pieces each chapter which then starts to show the common threads. These characters are really what pushes the novel forward, and I found myself drawn into each of their stories. I do wish I would've re-read The Handmaid's Tale before returning to this world to really see and feel all the connections, and I would like to read these as a pair someday. The sequel definitely wasn't a need, but it was a literary experience to return back of a place and hear stories I never thought I would.

Read this book if - You want to return to the world of Gilead and see what happened after.

The Missing Years by Lexie Elliott was a book I initially was hesitant to read. It seemed it was going to be a full on ghost story which honestly isn't my jam. However, this was not exactly what this was, and that's a good thing! After her mother's death, Ailsa inherits her childhood home. With her return to this place, the mystery of the disappearance from 27 years ago comes back fast and furious. Throughout, the "ghost" of Ailsa's father is imagining where he went. There was such power as these narratives were shared, and Ailsa still didn't have the answer she craved. In addition to the options given via narratives, suspicious things start happening around the house, and Ailsa wonders if this involves her father. This book did a great job of building suspense. The thrills it brought were connected to both the physical facility, the people who were there, and the past secrets, and that's what made it so compelling! Thanks to Berkley Publishing for the advanced copy (that I am woefully behind in reading), so I could be swept away in this mystery!

Read this book if - You want a thriller built on all the secrets and unsolved mysteries. 

American War by Omar El Akkad focuses on the second civil war. In the year 2074, the former United States of America is divided via a conflict that began with disagreements over the use of fossil fuel and protecting the environment. Much of the story focuses on Sarat, a girl who moves to a relocation camp after her father is killed. Sarat finds connections with rebels of sorts, and she's drawn into their world. She explores how she might help their cause which becomes her own. For me, what intrigued me most about the story was not where the focus was placed. I wanted to learn more about the events and happenings that led to the war. Instead, this focused more on the after, and at times for me, too much so. I am not saying that this was a bad story, in fact this is quite well told. Rather for me the focus just wasn't what intrigued me most. As the story got further and further into the after, I wanted to learn more and more of the before. This was such an intriguing (and not entirely unimaginable) view of the future, and I had so many questions about what got the country to this place. However, the focus was definitely more in sharing pieces of Sarat's story as a centerpiece for exploring the war as a historical happening, and that just left all those questions I had lingering.

Read this book if - You want to see the future at peak dystopian levels.