Book Club: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Publication Date: January 9th, 2018

Rating: 3 ¼ Stars

I was extremely excited to pick this book up. I’d seen The Immortalists mentioned by so many different media outlets, reading communities and publications, as it was widely promoted prior to and after its release. Suffice to say, all this “hype” ultimately caused the book to fall a bit short in my eyes. It was because of the “hype” that I held this book on a pedestal, a pedestal that I deemed to be too high after finishing the story within.

The premise of The Immortalists is so intriguing as four siblings decide to visit a mysterious woman whom tells each of them the exact day they will die. This book causes deeper thought as each sibling is then followed to their death, leading the reader to ask whether they were truly to die that day or if it was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Benjamin has succeeded in seeding the conversation around life, death and the choices we make. However, her attempts to reintroduce characters from one sibling’s storyline to the next fell flat as the tie back was not seamless and felt forced. In instances such as this, whenever I come upon stories that try to cross characters thru storylines, I immediately reflect on John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies, a book that so perfectly achieves the reintroduction of characters that every similarly done book I encounter is immediately compared to it. So, while the story is intriguing, thought-provoking and entertaining in its own right; it unfortunately didn’t live up to the hopes, “hype” and enthusiasm surrounding it.

 

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Two Reviews: The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy & The Myth of Perpetual Summer by Susan Crandall

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

Publication Date: May 1st, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Mothers groups have begun to gain popularity across the US, including many local groups here in Iowa that host events for new or expecting mothers as a way to provide social opportunities, sounding boards, tips and tricks.

The Perfect Mother follows one such group dubbed “The May Mothers” as one of the member’s babies goes missing after a night out together. Secrets begin to surface about each of the members as police work to find missing Baby Midas.

A riveting read as Molloy has given the reader several mothers, and one father, whom possess perfectly contrasting personalities, helping to aid the reader in not only keeping track of each character but by adding another level of engagement to the already stirringly suspenseful read.  Given I listened to this as an audiobook it would be an injustice to not give a shout out to narrator, Cristin Milioti, as she added an enjoyable layer to this read. Milioti brought to life each character through her flawless British and Southern accents and ability to quickly flip between characters in conversation.

*Disclaimer: A review audiobook was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


The Myth of Perpetual Summer by Susan Crandall

Publication Date: June 19th, 2018

Rating: 3 ½ Stars

“According to Granny, Northerners have a lot of misunderstandings about the South. Like how folks shivering up there in Vermont and Minnesota think we’re picnicking in the warmth and sunshine all winter long – perpetual summer.” (p. 19)

The James Family of Lamoyne, Mississippi live with a negative stigma over their family. Tallulah ran from her small town to escape the whispers and looks, but when her younger brother is imprisoned for murder she feels drawn home to help him.

Crandall beautifully touches on Southern values, mental illness and troubled childhoods in her newest, The Myth of Perpetual Summer, even successfully weaving in the civil rights movement and Vietnam war protests through the time periods captured within. However, like Remains of the Day, current day seems to take a backseat to the past as Tallulah seeks the closure she so desperately needs from her childhood.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by BookishFirst in exchange for an honest review.

Two Reviews: Justice Betrayed (Memphis Cold Case #3) by Patricia Bradley & Lone Witness (Atlanta Justice #2) by Rachel Dylan

Justice Betrayed (Memphis Cold Case #3) by Patricia Bradley

Publication Date: June 5th, 2018

Rating: 4 ½ Stars

Elvis Impersonators, badass female law enforcement and psycho killers – if Patricia Bradley didn’t already have a killer combo (pun intended) her talent to draw out suspense certainly would have been enough, in book three of the Memphis Cold Case series. Read in a series or standalone, Bradley expertly interlaces snippets of the killer’s thoughts, keeping the reader guessing in this entertaining suspenseful romance out now!

Was Rachel’s mother murdered in a kidnapping gone wrong 17 years ago, or do the recent murders of Elvis Impersonators mean her mother’s killer has resurfaced? Justice Betrayed leaves the reader guessing right to the last moment.

*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by Revell Publishers in exchange for an honest review.


Lone Witness (Atlanta Justice #2) by Rachel Dylan

Publication Date: May 1st, 2018

Rating: 4 ¼ Stars

Author Rachel Dylan knows her way around the courtroom as her talents are on full display in her newest book Lone Witness. The simultaneous telling of a beautiful love story between two broken people and the fear that brings them together. Prosecutor, Sophie Dawson and private security officer Cooper Knight are so well done, as is the real fear you feel for Sophie’s situation.

This book is straight out of a Law and Order-esque TV show with strong female lawyers to boot! An enchanting read as you feel the fear for the tangles of Sophie’s job, love for the characters uniting and passion for the work the ADA’s office is doing. Dylan expertly weaves the bad guys with the good as the reader is left scrambling to disentangle Sophie’s dangerous predicament. Anyone whom loves law dramas and romance will not be dissatisfied or lost in book two of the Atlanta Justice series.

*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

The Girls’ Guide to Conquering Life: How to Ace an Interview, Change a Tire, Talk to a Guy, and 97 Other Skills You Need to Thrive by Erica & Jonathan Catherman

Publication Date: May 15th, 2018

Rating: 2 ½ Stars

This husband and wife team set out to create a book that encased everything a girl, becoming a woman, needs to know. They did this through ten essential categories, detailing “How To” steps, with varying anecdotes scattered throughout the chapters. These “How To” stages are simplistic enough for a younger audience, while successfully keeping the topics light and understandable. The pictures included at the beginning of each kept the book from becoming too dense as the introductions to each category provided insights into why the authors determined each of the subject matters as important for young women.

My only hesitations were the prehistoric references. For instance, chapter one on “Guys & Dating” does not discuss the changing dating environment with modern technology and dating apps. It’s also important for the authors to cater to the target audience. Studies find most young women/girls, particularly those generations targeted by this book, have attention spans of a matter of seconds. Given this, and after reading The Girls’ Guide to Conquering Life, I didn’t encounter a solid reason why any female should choose to READ this book rather than YouTube each “How To.” As a young adult that recently renovated an entire house, without hired help, the wonders of YouTube and quick videos serve to teach more efficiently than reading, no matter how simplistic the steps are.

As mentioned this book focuses in on ten different categories. These categories, and my thoughts on each, are as follows:

  1. Guys & Dating – As mentioned earlier this chapter lacked discussion on the ever-changing dating environment. As technology and dating apps begin to take center stage at all ages, how can young women navigate? The subjects broached within this category were extremely rudimentary, with topics such as “How to Talk with a Guy You Like” and “How to Plan a Date.”
  2. Social Skills & Manners – This section brought up interesting topics such as the differences in American etiquette and European. As a cultural melting pot we must remain respectful to others. I enjoyed the “Did You Know” facts interspersed throughout, specifically page 46 which states “how we communicate is so much more than the words we choose. Communication is a combination of these elements: 7% Words, 38% tone of voice and 55% body language.” Despite my age, this remained a great reminder.
  3. Work & Ethics – The focus was on work more so than ethics, as this segment broke down everything from the application process to resignation. Although, again, I felt the authors failed to capture the power of technology and relationships in getting jobs today.
  4. Wealth & Money Management – Tied with the famous Dave Ramsey money management tips, this section focused on things like “don’t buy it if you don’t have the cash,” and “avoid using credit cards at all costs.” For the target audience, I’m not sure this chapter’s “debt” topics were pertinent. Regardless, as a woman in the financial industry, these suggestions are not often realistic because if we can’t buy with credit many people wouldn’t own cars and certainly wouldn’t own houses. Rather than shaming women into not spending money, we must teach women how to ask for help financially. I would have liked to see more detailed budgeting tips within this chapter as rigid financial budgets prevent overspending before it happens.
  5. Health & Beauty – Do male targeted books have chapters on maintaining healthy hair, skin, teeth and nail routines? As a self-described tomboy, I always hate to see chapters that open “How To” books to glaring gender differences, but given the changes to the body during puberty, lessons on maintaining oily hair and odors are necessary for the target audience.
  6. Clothes & Fashion – The authors did an incredible job opening this chapter with strong female quotes, including Anne Klein stating, “clothes aren’t going to change the world, the women who wear them will,” (p. 137). This sets the tone for the entire topic from learning what specifically causes clothing to smell to why stains need to be removed as outlined within.
  7. Sports & Recreation – This covered a wide breath of sports, from how to kick a soccer ball to how to properly throw a dart and why. Young readers are given detailed instructions on the fundamentals, such as shooting a basketball from the finger tips so it rolls off the middle finger. As a collegiate athlete I was thoroughly impressed with the level of PROPER detail given on these athletic topics.
  8. Cars & Driving – I think many females will agree being stranded somewhere, alone, is one of our worst fears. It is therefore important all girls know how to change a tire and jump start a car. This chapter gives the reader the instruction necessary to successfully complete key tasks so one is never left on the side of the road dependent on a stranger.
  9. Food & Cooking – I would no longer categorize myself as a “young woman” and I still struggle in this department. The authors did a great job of explaining how and why foods are cooked as they are. For instance, why fish is cooked skin on and how to sharpen your knives so they remain most effective. I don’t care how old you are there is always more to be learned about cooking and food prep.
  10. Tools & Fix-It – I was apprehensive going into this chapter, I didn’t think I would gain much from this chapter given my background in large DIY projects, but I was wrong. While I did disagree with some of the “must-have” tools for your tool kit, I did gain insight into the real reason for the slanted bubble on a level and a few other interesting tips.

*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Revell, in exchange for an honest review.

Two Reviews: Lies You Never Told Me by Jennifer Donaldson & The High Season by Judy Blundell

Lies You Never Told Me by Jennifer Donaldson

Publication Date: May 29th, 2018

Rating: 3 Stars

Elyse and Gabe couldn’t seem more opposite. One in Austin, the other in Portland. One a skateboarder, the other in theatre. And finally, one a family, the other “raised” by an addict. So why does Jennifer Donaldson follow these separate lives throughout Lies You Never Told Me as she flips between each’s narratives?

This all-encompassing novel quickly turns terrifying and unpredictable as the tale of high school fragility is on full display. What begins as a high school “love” story quickly becomes a dark, twisted, intertwined tale of two teenagers.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


The High Season by Judy Blundell

Publication Date: May 22nd, 2018

Rating: 3 ½ Stars

A cultural clash of the rich and locals Ruthie, Jem and even Doe fight to afford their sleepy summer getaway town. This beachy, female drama plays out in the Hampton-esque town of Orient.

The High Season stars slowly as Blundell paints the necessary character dynamics that drive the story behind the local Orient families and the summer crowd. The middle-class of Orient fight to maintain the laid-back vibe as the rich begin to flock in the summers, quickly choosing Orient over the showy lifestyles of the Hamptons. Bringing all the drama and air one would expect from the stereotypical rich artists portrayed in the movies, this book is sure to keep you reading on under your beach umbrella until the sun falls below the horizon.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Blind Betrayal (Defenders of Justice #3) by Nancy Mehl

Publication Date: April 17th, 2018

Rating: 3 ¼ Stars

E.J., Casey and Doug have one job as US Marshalls – getting their witness, Valerie, to Washington DC safely to testify. So, when a bomb goes off at their St. Louis headquarters their plans become frantically changed. Who’s after them and will they arrive safely? These questions are sure to keep you on the edge of your seat as this mildly romantic suspense novel weaves a tale that would make any US Marshall service member blush.

The heroically portrayed law enforcement officers represented within show incredible dedication and determination that mirrors the reality of those that serve. The twists, turns, alleys and dead ends Mehl skillfully constructs will keep you flipping pages, but be sure to keep the characters organized as there seems to be a never-ending stream of law enforcement introduced and perspectives portrayed. While Blind Betrayal may be the third in the Defenders of Justice Series the reader is not left feeling lost in the third book, each character is appropriately built to allow this to be read as a standalone.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.