Book Review: A Shadow Life

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A Shadow Life by Leta McCurryPublished September 1st 2016 by Embers Press

“If we don’t get away, and if anything happens to me, you have to find a way to get away from Harley…If i’m not here, get away. Run. Find a way. Run. Promise me. Do you understand, Laney?” -A Shadow Life, Leta McCurry

Synopsis:

After her father passed away, Laney and her mother, Mattie, were left to fend for themselves.  Then one day, Harley Faddis strolled into town intending on marrying Mattie and taking her and Laney away. However, as soon as they leave town it’s apparent that Harley isn’t the man he said he was. Five years later, Laney finds herself alone, frightened, and on the run. Eventually, she “finds a way to hide in plain sight and builds a safe and near-perfect new life. Safe and near- perfect, that is, until three people from the past show up looking for revenge, redemption and love.” (McCurry)

Ruby Jo is a wild eyed girl who knows she is destined for more than her small country town has to offer. She knows she is beautiful and there is a fire inside of her that she can’t keep tamed. When her mother attempts to marry her off, Ruby Jo makes the decision to flee to Hollywood. Nothing is going to keep her from chasing her dreams. Not even the birth of her daughter, Mercy Grace. Following a timeline from 1930 to 1962, Leta McCurry introduces us to four women who are interwoven and desperately trying to run from their pasts and build a new life.

My Thoughts:

I had no idea what to expect when I started reading this novel, but I was immediately immersed after the first page! I seriously could not get enough of it! The characters are so vibrant and real, you could definitely feel their pain and anguish. I haven’t experimented with many historical fiction books, but this novel definitely changed my outlook. Utilizing historical events, such as The Great Depression, McCurry was able to explain the type of grief the characters were experiencing in a contextual way.

This is one of the first books I finished this year and I can not think of a better way to begin my 2017 reading journey. It’s a book about self discovery that forces you to reflect on your own life and to be thankful for what you have. McCurry’s writing is very ‘readable’, but also extremely impactful. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading women’s fiction. Also, you can learn more about Leta McCurry and her novels at www.letamccurry.com.

Rating: 4/5

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Book Review: How Will I Know You?

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How Will I Know You? By Jessica Treadway, Published December 6th 2016 by Grand Central Publishing

Synopsis:

In Upstate New York the body of teenager Joy Enright is found strangled to death. She had been presumed drowned until her body appeared in a wooded area at the edge of a pond. As the investigation develops, four characters tell the story from four completely different perspectives prior to and in the aftermath of Joy’s death. Harper, Joy’s best friend and one of the last people to see her before her death; Tom, the son-in-law of the police chief and husband of Joy’s English teacher; Martin, an African American graduate art student and the only murder suspect; and Susanne, Joy’s mother and teacher at the local art college.

Susanne’s secrets lead investigators to Martin, one of the few African American’s in the small town. Martin is immediately placed under arrest because of his connection to Susanne and Joy, but is he the one that killed Joy Enright? What motives did he have? The Chief of Police is certain Martin is guilty, especially with Harper’s testimony, but that doesn’t stop his son-in-law, Tom, from doing some investigating of his own. Joy’s murder is the catalyst to an abundance of revelations that have been slowly simmering under the surface of the small town, and Tom may just find out the truth.

My Thoughts:

This was truly a suspenseful read from beginning to end. The multiple POV’s helped to slowly piece the story together while slowly building the tension. I haven’t read any of her previous novels, but it is clear that Jessica Treadway has a way with getting into the minds of her characters and making them unique. Her writing is very emphatic, I felt so wrapped up in the emotions of each character that it was almost too easy to get through the book quickly!

What I loved about this thriller is that it focused on a murder case and the impact that racism can have on issues of this caliber. I may be reading the wrong books, but I haven’t read a lot of thrillers that made racial tension a main part of the story line. The honesty and explicitness was refreshing.  This thriller had it all- a psychological exploration of all the characters, a portrait of a small town hung up on gossip and deceit, the complicated and morose life of a struggling teenager, and the difficulties of overcoming racial prejudice. I will definitely be reading more Jessica Treadway.

My Rating: 4.5/5

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Book Review: Among The Living

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Among The Living by Jonathan Rabb, Published October 4th 2016 by Other Press

“He had worked his way back to food, real food, with taste and texture and heat, and while his stomach had learned to re accommodate it, the rest of him was having more difficulty. There were any number of reasons for it – obvious reasons such as memory and shame – but the simplest was that to savor a plate was to recognize his own worth and that was something not so easily restored.”
Jonathan Rabb, Among the Living

Synopsis:

Yitzhak Goldah (Ike) is a Holocaust survivor who travels to Savannah in 1947 to live with his distant cousins, Abe and Pearl Jesler. As a trained journalist, Ike is a quiet observer who is adjusting to life in America after experiencing the worst of humanity. As he is welcomed into the Jewish community, he becomes aware of a divide between Savannah’s Reform and Conservative Jewish congregations. The Jeslers are Conservative, but that doesn’t stop Ike from falling in love with a Reform Jewish woman. Ike also struggles with the social norms regarding the treatment of African Americans in the South during Jim Crow.

My Thoughts:

I picked this book up and read the synopsis, because it was brand new in our library, and was immediately interested in reading it. I don’t think I can call myself a Historian since I haven’t really utilized my history degree, but military history was always my favorite and Jonathan Rabb decided to take a fresh perspective on the Holocaust by giving us some understanding into the life of a survivor after the war.

Rabb gives us insight into the life of a man who is struggling to accept love and the mistreatment of another group of people after experiencing one of the most horrific events in history. His approach felt very authentic, as the characters where very cautious of the language they used and the positions they put Ike into. It was hard to read sometimes because you could feel the loneliness and solemnity, but that’s the reason it is such a great book!

I do wish that Rabb had gone into more depth concerning the relationships between the two denominations of Jews as well as the Jewish community and the African Americans during this time. I felt like he would begin to elaborate more on this and then slip back into an unnecessary story line concerning Abe Jessler and some illegal business with his shoe store, which, in my opinion, never really reached a full conclusion. This book may feel slow paced, but I found it to be quite wonderful! It may not have enough excitement to appeal to some readers, but it was extremely fulfilling and beautifully written!

My Rating: 4/5

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Book Review: Modern Lovers

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Modern Lovers by Emma Straub, Published May 31st 2016 by Riverhead Books

“Why couldn’t everyone stay young forever? If not on the outside, then just on the inside, where no one ever got too old to be optimistic.”
Emma Straub, Modern Lovers

Synopsis:

Elizabeth, Andrew, and Zoe met in college when they formed the band Kitty’s Mustache with band mate, Lydia. Elizabeth and Andrew quickly became a couple, Zoe was the mysterious lesbian that everyone wanted to sleep with, and Lydia kept everyone at arm’s length (besides Andrew who she was good friends with). When the group disbanded, Lydia became a star and quickly faded.

Fast forward many years in the future. The gang is nearing fifty and Elizabeth, Andrew, and Zoe live in the same neighborhood deep in gentrified Brooklyn. Their cool grunge lifestyles have been replaced by financial difficulties, marital woes, and raising children. Zoe and her partner, Jane, have been struggling in their marriage and to top it off their ostentatious daughter Ruby has started a relationship with Elizabeth and Andrew’s son harry.

Dealing with their son growing up is one thing, but when Elizabeth is contacted by a film producer interested in making a film about Lydia’s life, it causes some tension between Elizabeth and Andrew. The producer wants Elizabeth to allow the film to use the song she wrote and also for the three remaining band members to allow their lives to be portrayed in the film. Elizabeth and Zoe are on board, but Andrew isn’t interested in reviving that chapter in his life. As the summer unfolds, all three couples will struggle with their relationships with one another, their future, and keeping the past in the past.

My Thoughts:

I read SO MANY mixed reviews on this book. Some people thoroughly did not like it. I am one of the readers who thoroughly enjoyed it! This is the first book I have read by Emma Straub. I think her character development is phenomenal. I was truly interested in the lives of all the main characters and I was anxious to find out what would happen to the characters the whole time! A lot of reviewers thought the characters were a little annoying; I didn’t feel this way once. They felt real to me. Straub also did a great job at capturing the comfortable small moments between friends and lovers and how different people deal with the challenges in their lives.

It isn’t an action packed page turner, but it is an enjoyable and well-written book that will make you smile and maybe even chuckle every once in a while. I gave this book an almost perfect score because I was extremely invested in the lives of the characters the entire time. I would definitely recommend this book, but I’m also curious about everyone else’s thoughts? Did you love it or hate it?  Let me know in the comments!

My Rating: 4.5/5

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Mini Reviews: Children’s Halloween Books!

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I haven’t done mini reviews on children’s books in so long! I actually got a lot of positive feedback on my last batch of children’s reviews, so I decided to review some Halloween themed books that are perfect to read to your children this season!  If you click on the title, you can see the price of each book through Amazon. I also included my personal rating for each book.  You can read my rating system here! Hope you enjoy 🙂

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A Dark and Noisy Night: A Silly Thriller with Peggy the Pig by Lisa Thiesing

This is the type of scary book to read to your child to reassure them when they get scared during the night! Peggy is afraid of all the strange noises in her house, but we soon learn that the noises are nothing to be afraid of. Perfect to read on Halloween night, I rate this book 3/5.

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Skelly the Skeleton Girl by Jimmy Pickering

Skelly the Skeleton Girl is an adorable book with amazing illustrations done by the author. In the book Skelly comes across a bone. In an effort to return the bone to its owner, we are introduced to all her spooky friends in her spooky house! I rate this book 5/5.

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Mouse’s First Fall by Lauren Thompson, Illustrated by Buket Erdogan

This book is definitely for younger children. Mouse and Minka are two mice who are experiencing the wonderful colors and shapes of fall by playing in the leaves. The illustrations are beautiful, and the book allows some interaction with the reader as it counts the leaves and the colors. I rate this book 4/5.

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Angelina’s Halloween by Katherine Holabird, Illustrated by Helen Craig

The Angelina series is very popular at our library with younger readers. Angelina Mouseling is getting ready for Halloween night with her friends. Her little sister, Polly, wants to be a fairy just like her sister but Angelina talks her into being a ghost instead. As they are trick-or-treating Polly scares Angelina when she temporarily gets lost, which makes her realize how important Polly is to her. The illustrations are beautiful and intricate and the story is a fun learning experience. I rate this book 4/5.

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Dog and Bear: Tricks and Treats by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Dog and Bear is also another popular series. In this book, Dog and Bear have lots of fun getting ready for Halloween, handing out candy, and trick-or –treating. It’s very comical and I actually found myself laughing a few times. It was very enjoyable and will be for your little reader too! I rate this book 5/5.

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Bone Dog by Eric Rohmann

I was kind of surprised by this book. It started off pretty morbid for a children’s picture book. Basically, this kid’s dog dies and then she comes back in the form of a “bone dog” to save him from some evil skeletons on Halloween night. It was cute, but it made me sad! I can’t decide if I really liked it or I’m really freaked out by it, to be honest! So I rate this book a 3/5.

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Zen Ghosts by Jon J Muth

Zen is another series of books (sorry for all the series). Stillwater is a panda that is friends with three children. On a full moon Halloween night, he asks the children to meet him so that he can tell them an ancient Chinese story. It’s a story within a story; The Inception of children’s books. I loved it. The watercolor illustrations are gorgeous and the entire story was magical (even if I found it strange that a giant panda was friends with three kids). I rate this book 5/5.

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Halloween Night by Elizabeth Hatch, Illustrated by Jimmy Pickering

Another book illustrated by Jimmy Pickering, who I am finding out is fantastic. This is a fun Halloween take on the song “And the Green Grass Grew All Around” using typical Halloween characters like bats and pumpkins. If you are looking for a Halloween themed book without the “spookiness”, this would be perfect! I rate this book 4/5.

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Pumpkin Moon by Tim Preston, Illustrated by Simon Bartram

This book is all about the pictures. The illustrations are great and kinda creepy in a way. The story is about what happens to all the jack-o-lanterns after Halloween night when everyone goes to sleep. It’s a simple book that would be fun to read after a night of trick or treating! I rate this book 3/5.

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Boo! It’s Halloween by Wendy Watson

I think this book was such a neat concept. Not only is it a story about the day of Halloween , but in the illustrations the characters are telling each other Halloween jokes that you get to read. It’s so cool! My only advice would be to read the story then go back and read the jokes. I rate this book 3/5.

Do you have a favorite Halloween themed children’s book? Let me know in the comments!

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