Monday, June 29, 2015

The Nightingale

Book: The Nightingale
Author: Kristin Hannah

In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France...but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real--and deadly--consequences.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah takes her talented pen to the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France--a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.-Goodreads

Review: Stunning. That is the first word that comes to mind when I think of 'The Nightingale', the first (and certainly not the last) book I've read by Kristin Hannah. I was drawn into Vivanne and Isabelle's stories from the first chapter and literally could not stop reading. I love a book that evokes emotion and I was absolutely riveted by their story. Hannah does a wonderful job showcasing the war from different points of view and I love how she handled the relationships between sisters, fathers and daughters as well as lovers. Isabelle was my absolute favorite character in this book. She evolves from a rebellious girl seeking her father's love to a key member of the resistance. Both story lines were heartbreaking and I found myself crying at several points of the book. 

Excellent. If you are a fan of historical fiction, read this. 

Grade: 5/5

Station Eleven

Book: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur's chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten's arm is a line from Star Trek: "Because survival is insufficient." But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.-Goodreads

Review: I was prepared to love this book. Every one of my friends rated it 5 stars. Every one of them. I tried, I really did, but this was like going on a date with your dream guy and discovering he was as boring as he was good looking. Lest I seem too negative here, I didn't hate this book by any means, and I do think St. John Mandel is a talented writer. The best thing about this novel is how it's constructed. I like how she switches narratives and timelines, and if this is her style, I definitely want to read more of her stuff. 

That being said, I found it predictable, boring and I was unable to connect to any character except for Jeevan, who was MIA most of the book. There is definitely a theme in post apocalyptic books (and I've read many of them) where the religious people are the crazy or evil ones. It's repetitive. The 'big bad' so to speak in this book was not a surprise (I'm not even sure if the reader was supposed to be surprised by his identity) and never really that scary. Kirsten (think of Katniss with less characterization) and the traveling symphony had potential, but I could never care about any of them. I was really interested in Jeevan (paparazzi turned paramedic, I mean, how cool is that?) but he was underutilized. Perhaps most concerning is that I kept taking breaks to research other books on goodreads and catch up on news while I was literally in the middle of chapters. I should have burned through this book in a few hours but it took me several days.

Overall-well written with a unique structure, but the characters failed to keep me engaged. 

Grade: 2/5


Book: Blindsighted
Series: Grant County #1
Author: Karin Slaughter

A small Georgia town erupts in panic when a young college professor is found brutally mutilated in the local diner. But it's only when town pediatrician and coroner Sara Linton does the autopsy that the full extent of the killer's twisted work becomes clear.

Sara's ex-husband, police chief Jeffrey Tolliver, leads the investigation -- a trail of terror that grows increasingly macabre when another local woman is found crucified a few days later. But he's got more than a sadistic serial killer on his hands, for the county's sole female detective, Lena Adams -- the first victim's sister -- want to serve her own justice.

But it is Sara who holds the key to finding the killer. A secret from her past could unmask the brilliantly malevolent psychopath... or mean her death.-Goodreads

Review: This is the first book in a series by Karin Slaughter, which takes place in a small town in Georgia. The main characters are Dr. Sara Linton, the pediatrician and coroner, Jeffrey Tolliver, her ex-husband (who she is not over) and chief of police, and Lena Adams, the county's sole female detective who also wins the award for the most grating character ever created. I enjoyed the murder mystery and the interactions with Sara and Jeffrey. Sara had a secret past which was revealed toward the end of the book and handled very well. I thought both Jeffrey's reaction (at hearing the news) and Sara's frustration at how he reacted were both spot on. Lena was incredibly annoying. Even though her twin sister was the first victim and I know I should have felt some sympathy toward her, she was intolerable. I wish the author had added a few red herrings in regards to the 'who done it?' because I felt like there was only one person in the town who could have committed the murders (and did). 

Overall-I enjoyed this and will definitely be reading the next one. Can't wait to see what Jeffrey and Sara find themselves investigating next time. 

Grade: 3/5

Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke

Book: Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke
Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog #2
Author: Anne Blankman

The girl known as Gretchen Whitestone has a secret: She used to be part of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle. More than a year after she made an enemy of her old family friend and fled Munich, she lives with a kindly English family, posing as an ordinary German immigrant, and is preparing to graduate from high school. Her love, Daniel Cohen, is a reporter in town. For the first time in her life, Gretchen is content.

But then, Daniel gets a telegram that sends him back to Germany, and Gretchen’s world turns upside-down. And when she receives word that Daniel is wanted for murder, she has to face the danger she thought she’d escaped-and return to her homeland.

Gretchen must do everything she can to avoid capture and recognition, even though saving Daniel will mean consorting with her former friends, the Nazi elite. And as they work to clear Daniel’s name, Gretchen and Daniel discover a deadly conspiracy stretching from the slums of Berlin to the Reichstag itself. Can they dig up the explosive truth and get out in time-or will Hitler discover them first?-Goodreads

Review: Overall, I enjoyed this book. The beginning of the story felt somewhat forced, but the author had to create some sort of catalyst to get the characters from England back to Germany. The murder mystery was an unexpected surprise and I like seeing Gretchen develop as a character. I think the most fascinating thing about this book is Blankman's ability to blend fact and fiction to create this story. I give the author's note at the end of the book, describing the actual historical events 5 stars, absolutely fascinating. 

Grade: 3/5

Every Fifteen Minutes

Book: Every Fifteen Minutes
Author: Lisa Scottoline

Dr. Eric Parrish is the Chief of the Psychiatric Unit at Havemeyer General Hospital outside of Philadelphia. Recently separated from his wife, Caitlin, he is doing his best as a single dad to his seven-year-old daughter Hannah. His work seems to be going better than his home life, however. His unit at the hospital has just been named number two in the country and Eric has a devoted staff of doctors and nurses who are as caring as Eric is. But when he takes on a new patient, Eric's entire world begins to crumble. Seventeen-year-old Max has a terminally ill grandmother and is having trouble handling it. That, plus his OCD and violent thoughts about a girl he likes makes Max a high risk patient. Max can't turn off the rituals he needs to perform every fifteen minutes that keep him calm. With the pressure mounting, Max just might reach the breaking point. When the girl is found murdered, Max is nowhere to be found. Worried about Max, Eric goes looking for him and puts himself in danger of being seen as a "person of interest". Next, one of his own staff turns on him in a trumped up charge of sexual harassment. Is this chaos all random? Or is someone systematically trying to destroy Eric's life? -Goodreads

Review"I'm a sociopath. I look normal, but I'm not. I'm smarter, better, and freer, because I'm not bound by rules, law, emotion, or regard for you. I can read you almost immediately, get your number right away, and push your buttons to make you do whatever I want. I don't really like you, but I'm so good at acting as if I do that it's basically the same thing ... I fool everybody."

Wow-this is one of my favorite openings ever. I was immediately engaged in this book...that is until our protagonist, Dr. Eric Parrish became the focus. Once he meets troubled teen Max, Eric starts to make bad decision, after bad decision, after bad decision. At one point I was hoping his estranged wife was the sociopath after him, because he was such a patsy (at one point, he discovers she sold their family home after telling him she wouldn't and that she had a new he goes ahead and mows her lawn because he's such a nice guy). That being said, the author mixed in occasional chapters from the sociopath's point of view, which kept me very interested in the story. Even though Eric was annoying, this was fast paced and a lot of twists and turns. I figured out who the sociopath was, but there were several things that happened at the end of the book that I wasn't expecting. 

Overall-good read. 

Grade: 3/5


Book: Shuttergirl
Series: The Hollywood Project #1
Author: CD Reiss

I am not hurt.

I don’t need a second chance with him, or a life I thought I had.

While he was out forgetting me to become a movie star, I was building a career out of nothing. A career as a paparazzi, but a career. For a foster kid who bounced around every home in Los Angeles, that wasn’t easy.

This camera is all I have.

He’s nothing to me. Every time I take his picture and sell it, I remind myself that I did it all without him or his approval, his cinnamon smell or his clear green eyes. He lights up the screen like a celestial body, but he’s nothing but a paycheck to me.

He can throw my camera off a balcony, and nothing has to change. We can stay king and queen of the same city, and different worlds.

Except this is Hollywood, and here, anything can happen.-Goodreads

Review: Laine is a successful paparazzi in LA, while Michael is a handsome, successful movie star who is an all around nice guy. They went to high school together years ago and lost touch. When they are reunited, can they make a relationship work when it could ruin both of their careers?

Overall, this was a good start to a new series. I really enjoyed looking at Hollywood and stars in a new light. Laine is dedicated to her craft, and Michael feels intense pressure to be perfect all the time. Fame comes with a price and he is extremely lonely. This was dark, gritty and emotional at times. These two had a serious barrier to their relationship and it was interesting seeing how it all played out (I also loved Michael's ex-girlfriend, she was a nice surprise). The end was a little over the top, otherwise I enjoyed this. 

CD Reiss is one of my new favorite authors and I'll be reading the next in the series. 

Grade: 3/5


Book: Overruled
Series: The Legal Briefs #1
Author: Emma Chase

As a DC defense attorney, Stanton Shaw keeps his head cool, his questions sharp, and his arguments irrefutable. They don’t call him the Jury Charmer for nothing – with his southern drawl, disarming smile and captivating green eyes – he’s a hard man to say no to. Men want to be him and women want to be thoroughly cross examined by him.

Stanton’s a man with a plan. And for a while, life was going according to that plan.

Until the day he receives an invitation to the wedding of his high school sweetheart and mother of his beloved ten-year old daughter. Jenny is getting married — to someone who isn’t him.

That's definitely not part of the plan.

Sofia Santos is a city raised, no-nonsense litigator who plans to become the most revered criminal defense attorney in the country. She doesn’t have time for relationships or distractions.

But when Stanton, her "friend with mind-blowing benefits" begs for help, she finds herself out of her element, out of her depth, and obviously out of her mind. Because she agrees to go with him – to The-Middle-Of-Nowhere, Mississippi – to do all she can to help Stanton win back the woman he loves.

Her head tells her she's crazy...and her heart says something else entirely.

What happens when you mix a one stop-light town, two professional arguers, a homecoming queen, four big brothers, some Jimmy Dean sausage and a gun-toting Nana?

The Bourbon flows, passions rise and even the best laid plans get overruled by the desires of the heart.-Goodreads

Review: I think the genius of Emma Chase's 'Tangled' was her ability to write Drew as a lovable asshole (well, in my opinion anyways, everyone in my book club hated the book lol). In this new series, Stanton is without question an asshole, but other than financially providing for his daughter, I couldn't find any redeeming qualities about him. He has literally slept his way across DC although he's having an exclusive friends with benefits relationship with Ms. Doormat..I mean..Sofia, his co-worker. Meanwhile, Jenny (his baby momma) and child are back his hometown. Stanton and Jenny supposedly have an open relationship, but when he's back home, they are together. I like the idea of the high school sweetheart storyline but it just seemed unbelievable to me that Jenny would sit around waiting for him (10 years when the book takes place) when it was clear he was never coming home. I did enjoy Jenny when the story shifts to Mississippi and liked her nana. Sophia was a doormat throughout most of the book and I wish she grew a backbone earlier. 

Overall, this was okay. There was a sample for the next book in the series focused on a different attorney in Stanton and Sofia's lawfirm, and I will definitely be reading it. 

Grade: 2/5

Mai Tai'd Up

Book: Mai Tai'd Up

Series: Cocktail #4
Author: Alice Clayton

The gossip mill in the seaside community of Monterey is churning about Chloe Patterson, the newcomer who is starting a sanctuary for rescued pit bulls. It’s rumored that she’s a former beauty queen (true) who ditched her fiancé the morning of their wedding (also true). And that while she’s not looking for a new man, the good-looking local veterinarian has his eye on her. Absolutely, positively true.

When Lucas Campbell isn’t at the family veterinary clinic, he’s paddle boarding in Monterey Bay. Recently single, he’s definitely not in the market for a new relationship, but he still can’t resist taking a second, third, and fourth look at the recent arrival of Miss Golden State.

Neither Lucas nor Chloe has any interest in being tied down. Being tied up, however—now there’s a thought. But are a few Mai Tais, a moonlit night, and the music of Frank Sinatra enough to allow them both to forget their past? Let’s hope Ol’ Blue Eyes knows what he’s doing.

Mix one part tiki, one part kinky, and a splash of old black magic matchmaking, and it’s time to be . . . Mai Tai’d Up.-Goodreads

Review: I love Alice Clayton and the previous Cocktail books so I was prepared to fall in love with Chloe and Lucas. I was also prepared to laugh, because the previous books were so funny. I didn't hate this book by any means, it was a nice romance about a former beauty queen who finally makes her own way in life and a perfectly nice vet. I'm also an animal lover so I appreciated the dog story line. I just felt like too much time was spent on the dogs and not enough time was spent on building up the tension with Chloe and Lucas. Lucas was also introduced too late in the story (it felt like halfway although it may have been a little earlier) and this book lacked humor. 

Overall, my least favorite of the series but I'll keep reading anything by Alice Clayton. 

Grade: 2/5


Book: Screwdrivered
Series: Cocktail #3
Author: Alice Clayton

By day, Viv Franklin designs software programs. By night, Vivian’s a secret romance-novel junkie who longs for a knight in shining armor, or a cowboy on a wild stallion, or a strapping firefighter to sweep her off her feet. And she gets to wear the bodice—don’t forget the bodice.

When a phone call brings news that she’s inherited a beautiful old home in Mendocino, California from a long-forgotten aunt, she moves her entire life across the country to embark on what she sees as a great, romance-novel-worthy adventure. But romance novels always have a twist, don’t they?

There’s a cowboy, one that ignites her loins. Because Cowboy Hank is totally loin-ignition worthy. But there’s also a librarian, Clark Barrow. And he calls her Vivian. Can tweed jackets and elbow patches compete with chaps and spurs? You bet your sweet cow pie.

In Screwdrivered, Alice Clayton pits Superman against Clark in a hilarious and hot battle that delights a swooning Viv/Vivian.

Also within this book, an answer to the question of the ages: Why ride a cowboy when you can ride a librarian?-Goodreads

Review: Ah Viv Franklin, can I visit Mendocino and hang out with you? I liked everything about this book. It was fun, steamy and had me chuckling. Viv Franklin has tons of spunk and I loved watching her spar with Clark the librarian. Equally funny were her interactions with Hank, the sexy cowboy. If you are looking for a fun series this summer, I highly recommend the first three Cocktail books. 

Grade: 4.5/5