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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Review: The French Girl by Lexie Elliott

Title: The French Girl
Author: Lexie Elliott 
Format: ARC
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publish Date: February 20, 2018 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "They were six university students from Oxford--friends and sometimes more than friends--spending an idyllic week together in a French farmhouse. It was supposed to be the perfect summer getaway--until they met Severine, the girl next door.

For Kate Channing, Severine was an unwelcome presence, her inscrutable beauty undermining the close-knit group's loyalties amid the already simmering tensions. And after a huge altercation on the last night of the holiday, Kate knew nothing would ever be the same. There are some things you can't forgive, and there are some people you can't forget, like Severine, who was never seen again.

Now, a decade later, the case is reopened when Severine's body is found in the well behind the farmhouse. Questioned along with her friends, Kate stands to lose everything she's worked so hard to achieve as suspicion mounts around her. Desperate to resolve her own shifting memories and fearful she will be forever bound to the woman whose presence still haunts her, Kate finds herself buried under layers of deception with no one to set her free."

My Two Cents:

In "The French Girl," once upon a time, Kate and her group of friends from Oxford vacationed in France. They had a hanger-on in the form of Severine, a mysterious French girl who threatens to topple the sort of balance that the group has found. When Severine ends up dead, the friends are questioned. Nothing turns up at first and the friends go their separate ways. They never expect that Severine will continue to haunt them all.

This is a thriller but it's much more quiet and there is a very slow build throughout the book. I did find myself wishing that things would move a little bit faster throughout the book. The story line is also very much focused on the present and I wanted to know more about how the group of friends was when they were actually friends. When we meet them in present day, it was hard to see what made them work as a group - they seem so different.

I also found myself wanting to know more about the characters. We see how they interact with each other but it felt like readers are held at arms length throughout the book. We get to know Kate a little bit better as we see the action through her eyes.

Overall, I did like that this book keeps you guessing but I was looking for something to invest in more!


Monday, February 19, 2018

Review: As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

Title: As Bright as Heaven
Author: Susan Meissner 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publish Date: February 6, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "n 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters--Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa--a chance at a better life.

But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without--and what they are willing to do about it."

My Two Cents:

"As Bright as Heaven" follows the story of the Bright family as they leave the countryside for Philadelphia where the father of the family plans to take over a funeral business for a family member. Even though it is hard, and sometimes sad, work, it promises to give the Bright family a more successful future. Fate has a way of intervening though. It is the late 1910s and the world is ravaged by the Spanish flu and World War I has taken many young men far away from home where they may be hurt irreparably. This is a story of a family standing together even when things are difficult.

While this is a story about a whole family, the mother and daughter relationship is especially important in this book. When Pauline's husband goes away, she becomes the full caretaker for her three daughters. They live in a brand new place and are trying to get used to a brand new business. Pauline puts everything on the line for her daughters until she can't anymore. Being a mother (and of daughters at that), I found a lot of common ground with Pauline throughout the story. It makes the turn of events even more painful!

I loved the characters in this book. We get to see the Bright daughters as they grow up. They are three very different people but all brave in different ways. At first, I didn't understand why the author chooses to show the Bright family both in 1918 and then a little bit later but as you see (and I don't want to give anything away), it was necessary in order to show the full progression of their characters, which I really liked.

This was a difficult read. This flu season has been bad so it was interesting comparing the differences between the flu in this book and the flu currently going around. It was so crazy to me how widespread the flu was then and how deadly it proved to be. I thought the author did a really good job of showing how devastating this flu was and how worried people were. There's one part of the book where the grandparents of the family refuse to let the family come back to the countryside to escape the flu because they believe the Bright family already has it. It was very sad to read how the flu tore families apart both in life and death.

Overall, this was a hard read in a lot of ways but I enjoyed how thought provoking it was and the writing was great!


Friday, February 16, 2018

Help a Book Lover Out!

This week has really gotten away from me. It has been such a crazy few weeks and I am woefully behind on book reviews!

So I want to know what you're reading right now? And if you aren't digging it, tell me what the last great book you've read is!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Giveaway Winner!

Another giveaway is over and I have another winner to announce!

The winner of "The Secret Life of  Mrs. London" is Terry M.!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Review: Elmore by Holly Hobbie

Title: Elmore
Author: Holly Hobbie
Format: ARC
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: January 30, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Elmore is a porcupine desperate to make friends. But it is hard to seek closeness with others when you're covered with spikes that shoot off your back every so often. Elmore suffers rejection and heartbreak, but the goodness of his forest community ultimately shines through as the animals find a way to connect with this prickly bundle of love.

Holly Hobbie is the creator of the beloved Toot & Puddle series and now brings us a character for the next generation. Just as charming, funny, and good-hearted as her little pigs, Elmore the porcupine will snuggle and prickle his way securely into the picture-book canon."

My Two Cents:

"Elmore" is the adorable new release by Holly Hobbie. Elmore just wants friends but finds it hard to connect to the other animals in the forest because of who he is: extremely prickly! The other animals are scared of him at first but eventually they figure out some common ground with him and suddenly the prickles don't matter!

I liked the message that this book had about trying to see the good in people before just stopping at outside appearances. The adorable animals make this message accessible to even little readers! I always like when books don't talk down to kids and this one certainly doesn't, which is great and makes for a story that both parents and children can enjoy.

I loved the illustrations in this book. They are adorable and you want to just hug each of the woodland creatures, even Elmore, prickles and all. This is a very pretty book with great art! My kids and I both really enjoyed this one.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Review: Layover by Amy Andelson and Emily Meyer

Title: Layover
Author: Amy Andelson and Emily Meyer
Format: ARC
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: February 6, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Flynn: At first we were almost strangers. But ever since I moved to New York, Amos was the one person I could count on. And together we were there for Poppy. (I mean, what kind of parents leave their kid to be raised by a nanny?) I just didn’t expect to fall for him—and I never expected him to leave us.

Amos: I thought I was the only one who felt it. I told myself it was because we were spending so much time together—taking care of Poppy and all. But that night, I could tell she felt it, too. And I freaked out—you’re not supposed to fall for your stepsister. So I ran away to boarding school. I should have told her why I was leaving, but every time I tried, it felt like a lie."

My Two Cents:

"Layover" is the story of step-siblings Amos and Flynn and their half-sister, Poppy. They are getting ready to go on a family vacation to Bora Bora with a layover at LAX. Poppy overheard something their parents said and tells Amos and Flynn. It upsets them so much that they decide they won't meet their parents in Bora Bora and that they will stay in their layover location, Los Angeles, instead. I had high hopes for this one but it fell sort of flat for me. 

This book was really just ok for me. I had a really hard time caring about any of the main characters in this book. Flynn is the total "not like other girls" heroine, which falls really flat for me. In trying to make her different, she keeps making comparisons between herself and the other girls around her and how she is so unique and different. It got old. Amos just isn't particularly interesting. Poppy was probably my favorite character. She is 10 years old but incredibly precocious (in some cases, too precocious that it didn't feel real). She kept the story going and in many ways, proved to be more insightful than the other characters.

The writing of the book was okay. I liked that the story was told from the perspectives of Flynn, Amos, and Poppy but I wish the voices of the different characters had sounded a little more separate from each other. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

HFVBT Review: The Phantom's Apprentice by Heather Webb

Title: The Phantom's Apprentice
Author: Heather Webb 
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Sonnet Press
Publish Date: February 6, 2018 (This week!!!)

Source: HFVBT

What's the Story?:

From "In this re-imagining of Phantom of the Opera, meet a Christine Daaé you’ve never seen before…

Christine faces an impossible choice: be a star at the Paris opera as Papa always wanted, or follow her dream—to become a master of illusions. First, she must steal the secrets of the enigmatic master who haunts her, survive a world of treachery and murder, and embrace the uncertain promise of love. To succeed, she will risk her life in the grandest illusion of all."

My Two Cents:

"The Phantom's Apprentice" is the re-imagining of "The Phantom of the Opera." I was drawn to this book as I am a huge fan of musicals and grew up enchanted with Andrew Lloyd Weber's Phantom. In fact, it was the very first musical that I saw on stage! That being said, I have never read Gaston Leroux's original book so some parts in the book were new to me. This was an exciting story that added a little more depth to the story of the Phantom for me. 

This book started out a little slowly for me. It really picked up once Christine is selected to become a part of the Opera company. And then the book gets very exciting as Christine discovers who her Angel of Music really is and more about his back story. I really liked that there is a large dose of magic and illusions throughout the book. This acts as a kind of thread to bind the book together - definitely an exciting take!

I really liked that the story was told from Christine Daae's perspective. Even though she is one of the main characters in the musical, musicals are not great for fleshing out characters so I loved getting a better sense of her in this book. She is much stronger than she seemed in the musical, which I liked. It was fascinating to see how she deals with all that she goes through in this book. You really get to see her change throughout the book as she grows a little older and more savvy about the world that she is surrounded by. 

Overall, I enjoyed this retelling! Although it started a little slowly, I enjoyed it.

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