Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

The Weight of BloodYowzas!! This story is not for the faint of heart! I was swept up from page 1 and so immersed in this terrifying story that I finished it in just a couple of days.  It's intense, scary, gritty, graphic and unfortunately all too realistic.  There's no way I wanted to be caught reading this after the sun had set, cause I'm sure I might have had nightmares.   The writing was fantastic and the story NEVER got slow or boring - major props to Ms. McHugh on her first novel!!  I know my friends Debbie & Brooke at work are going to flip out when they get their hands on this one - it kinda reminded me somewhat of how it felt to read Room by Emma Donoghue.  The kind of story, you have to set down for a minute - catch your breath, clear your head and remind yourself it's not real (though for some, it is real).  Ugh.  What a sick world we live in.   Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing for the opportunity to read an advance copy of The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh.  If this type of suspense thriller is your cup of tea, The Weight of Blood comes out in stores March 11th and you can pre-order your copy here.
Description: The Dane family's roots tangle deep in the Ozark Mountain town of Henbane, but that doesn't keep sixteen-year-old Lucy Dane from being treated like an outsider. Folks still whisper about her mother, a bewitching young stranger who inspired local myths when she vanished years ago. When one of Lucy's few friends, slow-minded Cheri, is found murdered, Lucy feels haunted by the two lost girls-the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn't protect. Everything changes when Lucy stumbles across Cheri's necklace in an abandoned trailer and finds herself drawn into a search for answers. What Lucy discovers makes it impossible to ignore the suspicion cast on her own kin. More alarming, she suspects Cheri's death could be linked to her mother's disappearance, and the connection between the two puts Lucy at risk of losing everything. In a place where the bonds of blood weigh heavy, Lucy must decide where her allegiances lie.

Recommend:  Only if you know you can handle the grit that comes with reading about the sex trade of women.
Rating: ****

Monday, February 24, 2014

Runaway Saint by Lisa Samson

Runaway Saint

So the premise for this book (which you can find below) was a bit misleading as far as what to possibly expect from Aunt Bel's story.  The synopsis says, "But Bel is hiding something. Though she won't talk about it, Sara soon learns that Bel has been through a hellish ordeal. And she has the burn marks to prove it."  But the odd thing is - there were no burn marks mentioned in the story.  I actually kept waiting to learn about these supposed burn marks and at whose hand she was suffering abuse from and it was never even mentioned nor did the story take that direction - kinda weird.  She did suffer an injury that you find out about, but not because of any abuse.  

Had I not read the synopsis I would have been completely content with how the story unfolded - it was really good and I very much enjoyed it a lot!  But I'm bummed that the teaser (if you will) was kinda misleading. 

For what it's worth - great story, great writing and I still highly recommend it.  But don't take the description below too literal, cause it's not exactly the real story.  

Thank you NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for the opportunity to read and review a copy of Runaway Saint by Lisa Samson - I'm so excited to have found another Christian author with whose writing I very much enjoyed!!  Oh and one other thing - did Lisa base the character Finn on my husband?  Because OH MA GOSH.  I swear, every time Finn started a project around the house, I couldn't help but laugh and empathize with Sara so much.  Girl I have been there.  WAY too funny.  

Description:  "When her aunt shows up homeless on her doorstep, Sara suspects anything but a miracle.

Sara's an artist with a supportive husband and a house that folks on her block admire outright. But she's restless and bored with life.

Then her legendary Aunt Bel shows up, wearing a smile after years without a word.

Twenty years ago, fresh out of college, Bel left for a summer missions trip and never returned. Now she's on Sara's doorstep, looking for a place to crash. Sara can't say no to family, even if she hasn't seen Bel since she was a nine-year-old girl. But saying yes to Bel turns Sara's whole precariously-balanced life upside down.

The enigmatic Bel gives Sara's family and their community a jolt of fresh thinking and clarity.

But Bel is hiding something. Though she won't talk about it, Sara soon learns that Bel has been through a hellish ordeal. And she has the burn marks to prove it."

"[Samson's] gift for creating unique, flawed character elevates this book above others. Each line has so much truth, and readers will likely ponder different passages long after finishing." --"Romantic Times Review," TOP PICK! 4 1/2 stars

"Samson's quirky characters will have readers laughing, crying, and shaking their heads in disbelief, sometimes all at the same time. This uplifting read . . . will attract fans of women's fiction and especially works by authors Sarah Jio, Anne Tyler, and Alice Hoffman." --"Library Journal"

Rating: ****

Recommend: For sure!  Good clean writing that flowed so well, with an intriguing story line that will keep you guessing till the very end!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Wake by Anna Hope

Wake: A Novel

I was graciously allowed the opportunity to receive an advance copy of Wake by Anna Hope.  This book is told in 4 person narrative, which can seem confusing, but was actually fairly easy to keep straight.  And the fact that an author can seamlessly transition from the minds of 4 different individuals is absolutely mind-boggling to me.  However, I struggled at times with a few different scenes that I felt were a bit unnecessary (ie Evelyn in the window with the man in the wheelchair - I mean what was that all about? Ick.)  And there were very beautifully, heart-wrenching scenes as well - my heart just broke for Ada and the loss of her son.  

I never like to say too much about a book and give anything away, but I will say this book has me on the fence about where I stand with it.  It was extremely intriguing, but also a bit strange and I wasn't all that impressed with the ending.  I guess I can't recommend it one way or the other - I guess, you'll just to give a try for yourself. ;-)

A huge thank you to NetGalley & Random House for the opportunity to read & review Wake by Anna Hope.  Wake is released in stores today if you want to get your hands on your own copy, go here

Description: Anna Hope’s brilliant debut unfolds over the course of five days, as three women must deal with the aftershocks of World War I and its impact on the men in their lives. 

Wake: 1) Emerge or cause to emerge from sleep. 2) Ritual for the dead. 3) Consequence or aftermath.

London, 1920. The city prepares to observe the two-year anniversary of Armistice Day with the burial of the unknown soldier. Many are still haunted by the war: Hettie, a dance instructress, lives at home with her mother and her brother, who is mute after his return from combat. One night Hettie meets a wealthy, educated man and finds herself smitten with him. But there is something distracted about him, something she cannot reach. . . . Evelyn works at the Pensions Exchange, through which thousands of men have claimed benefits from wounds or debilitating distress. Embittered by her own loss, she looks for solace in her adored brother, who has not been the same since he returned from the front. . . . Ada is beset by visions of her son on every street, convinced he is still alive. Helpless, her loving husband has withdrawn from her. Then one day a young man appears at her door, seemingly with notions to peddle, like hundreds of out-of-work veterans. But when he utters the name of her son, Ada is jolted to the core.
The lives of these three women are braided together, their stories gathering tremendous power as the ties that bind them become clear, and the body of the unknown soldier moves closer and closer to its final resting place.

Rating: ***

Recommend: Really can't say.  If you enjoy historical fiction, I think you would very much enjoy this read, but as a disclosure - there were a couple unnecessary scenes in my opinion of the sexual nature.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks

Every fall my sisters and I eagerly anticipate when Nicholas Sparks will be releasing his newest work of romantic fiction and mark our calendars accordingly.  I fell in love with NS when I first saw Message In A Bottle in theatres back in 1999 with Kevin Costner and Robin Wright (Penn).  I fell in love with the scenery, the writing, the cast, the music, EVERYTHING.  When I saw the movie was based on a book, I had to know right then who would write such a beautiful love story. And ever since, as soon as one of his new releases hits the shelves, I have my copy reserved & all ready to go.

Last year, he released The Best of Me, which I had a difficult time with.  It's hard for me to get behind a love story when it involves a married man/woman - EVEN if it's a bad situation.  I just get this yucky feeling as I'm reading it.  But the one before that was Safe Haven - which I loved! So it was kind of a coin toss for me this year to pick up The Longest Ride and I didn't have a whole lot of expectations.

But seriously, I so loved it!  Yes, NS is back!  I could imagine every little detail and thought it was such a sweet and endearing story, one in which will be added to his long line of successful films as well.  I thought it was so good I told my sister she needs to pick it up asap and passed it off to my mother-in-law immediately!  If you have never read Nicholas Sparks, I couldn't recommend a better one to start with!  (Well, ok, maybe except for Message In A Bottle and The Notebook. And A Walk to Remember.)  Geez, love him.

Description: Ira Levinson is in trouble. At ninety-one years old, in poor health and alone in the world, he finds himself stranded on an isolated embankment after a car crash. Suffering multiple injuries, he struggles to retain consciousness until a blurry image materializes and comes into focus beside him: his beloved wife Ruth, who passed away nine years ago. Urging him to hang on, she forces him to remain alert by recounting the stories of their lifetime together – how they met, the precious paintings they collected together, the dark days of WWII and its effect on them and their families. Ira knows that Ruth can’t possibly be in the car with him, but he clings to her words and his memories, reliving the sorrows and everyday joys that defined their marriage.

A few miles away, at a local rodeo, a Wake Forest College senior’s life is about to change. Recovering from a recent break-up, Sophia Danko meets a young cowboy named Luke, who bears little resemblance to the privileged frat boys she has encountered at school. Through Luke, Sophia is introduced to a world in which the stakes of survival and success, ruin and reward -- even life and death – loom large in everyday life. As she and Luke fall in love, Sophia finds herself imagining a future far removed from her plans -- a future that Luke has the power to rewrite . . . if the secret he’s keeping doesn’t destroy it first.

Ira and Ruth. Sophia and Luke. Two couples who have little in common, and who are separated by years and experience. Yet their lives will converge with unexpected poignancy, reminding us all that even the most difficult decisions can yield extraordinary journeys: beyond despair, beyond death, to the farthest reaches of the human heart.

Rating: *****
Recommend:  Always.  He's been a longtime favorite of mine!