Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Behind Closed Doors

Book: Behind Closed Doors
Author: BA Paris

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You'd like to get to know Grace better. But it's difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love.

Picture this: a dinner party at their perfect home, the conversation and wine flowing. They appear to be in their element while entertaining. And Grace's friends are eager to reciprocate with lunch the following week. Grace wants to go, but knows she never will. Her friends call—so why doesn't Grace ever answer the phone? And how can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim?

And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows?

The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie?-Goodreads

Review: Grace is in her early 30's and extremely close to her younger sister Millie, who has Downs Syndrome. Their parents never wanted children so Grace has also taken on a 'mother' type role for Millie and plans to be her caregiver when Millie turns 18 in a few years and leaves the boarding school she is at. Grace hasn't had much luck dating until she meets Jack. Jack is a handsome, successful attorney who specializes in domestic violence. In fact, he's never lost a case. Jack is a true gentleman who treats Grace wonderfully and seemingly loves Millie too. After a whirlwind courtship and marriage, things take a drastic turn on their honeymoon. 

**mild spoiler**

Still here? Okay, this isn't a huge spoiler since this happens very early on in the book. On their honeymoon, Jack confiscates Grace's passport and explains to her that he is a sadistic sociopath. I'll refrain from saying why he married her exactly, but he has a specific reason. Now, it was odd that he just lays it out on the table. There is no guessing with Jack, we know what he is and why. Grace ignored a lot of red flags up to this point (who quits their job to be a stay at home wife..when you have no children and aren't even married yet?!) and finds herself trapped. While Grace's day-to-day experiences were a tad boring (and the sadistic part of me was waiting for Jack to be more evil than he was), I could not stop turning the pages and see how it would end. 

When I finished this book I thought I would rate it 2 stars (tad boring in the middle, a lot of suspension of disbelief, I was wanting more "evil" from Jack, good ending) but I can't stop thinking about it and what I would have done in that situation. So, rating upgrade! I will definitely read more from this author. Also, I think this would be a really good movie. 

Grade: 3.5/5

The Deal

Book: The Deal
Series: Off-Campus #1
Author: Elle Kennedy

Hannah Wells has finally found someone who turns her on. But while she might be confident in every other area of her life, she's carting around a full set of baggage when it comes to sex and seduction. If she wants to get her crush's attention, she'll have to step out of her comfort zone and make him take notice...even if it means tutoring the annoying, childish, cocky captain of the hockey team in exchange for a pretend date.

All Garrett Graham has ever wanted is to play professional hockey after graduation, but his plummeting GPA is threatening everything he's worked so hard for. If helping a sarcastic brunette make another guy jealous will help him secure his position on the team, he's all for it. But when one unexpected kiss leads to the wildest sex of both their lives, it doesn't take long for Garrett to realize that pretend isn't going to cut it. Now he just has to convince Hannah that the man she wants looks a lot like him.-Goodreads

Review: This is the best 'New Adult' romance I've read to-date. I loved Hannah and Garrett together and my favorite thing about it....it was funny! If you are looking for a quick, fun read, give this a try. I can't wait to read the rest of the series. 

Grade: 4/5

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Book: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Series: Harry Potter #8
Author: JK Rowling

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places. -Goodreads

Review: After hearing so many passionate responses to this (both positive, negative and a few in the middle of the road), I was almost afraid to read it. Would it impact my love of the previous books if I hated it? I decided that I would be fine with it either way and dived in. 

First and foremost, realize that this is a play and not a detailed book. And for a play, it's pretty short, so it's an extremely fast read. It doesn't seem like book #8 in the series..well, because it really isn't. I wasn't very impressed with adult Harry and Ron's primary role seemed to be for comedic relief, but I can see that working on the stage. Hermione was still the same Hermione I loved. Ginny and Harry's son Albus was an interesting character. He was a loner who did not fit in and dreaded his time at Hogwarts. My favorite characters were adult Malfoy and his son. I loved the friendship between Malfoy and Albus. 

Overall, I'm glad I read this. It was a quick, fun read. 

Grade: 3/5

The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas

Book: The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas
Author: Anand Giridharadas

Anand Giridharadas's deeply moving new work of narrative nonfiction tells the story of Raisuddin Bhuiyan, a former Bangladeshi Air Force officer who comes to America with a dream of starting a new life. That dream falters when, after 9/11, a self-declared "American terrorist" named Mark Stroman walks into the Dallas minimart where Bhuiyan works and shoots him in the face, nearly ending his life. Then, a decade after the shooting, in a remarkable act of mercy, Bhuiyan forgives Stroman and wages a legal battle against Governor Rick Perry, in the name of Shariah law and the U.S. Constitution, attempting to spare from execution the man who tried to kill him. The True American is a story about our love-hate relationship with immigrants, about the meeting of Islam and the West, and about whether we choose who we become or let ourselves be hemmed in by history.-Goodreads

Review: 'The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas' was our book club read for November. Rais is a hard working Bangladeshi working in Dallas when he is shot in the face by Mark Stroman. Stroman is quickly arrested and convicted, but the two men lives are intertwined when Rais works with a team of people to help spare Stroman from the death penalty. 

I've read several true crime novels and this was definitely one of the better ones. Like all authors, Giridharadas injects some of his own disdain (he clearly did not care for Stroman's former boss who helped turn him in) but overall, I think he did a very good job presenting Rais and Stroman. Rais is such a hard working, positive individual I was thoroughly impressed by his attitude and spirit (and my heart absolutely broke for him when his engagement fell apart). I particularly liked how he handled Stroman, primarily by introducing him by court records. I also learned a lot of death row and its inmates (there are pen pal programs, who knew?). I think the oddest part of this book was the last third, which weirdly focused on Mark Stroman's children and their struggles. I feel like this was completely unnecessary and didn't fit in with the rest of the book. 

Overall-this was a very good read and sparked a lot of discussion at our book club. The last third should have been edited out, or included as an afterward. 

Grade: 4/5

Letter to a Christian Nation

Book: Letter to a Christian Nation
Author: Sam Harris

In response to The End of Faith, Sam Harris received thousands of letters from Christians excoriating him for not believing in God. Letter to A Christian Nation is his reply. Using rational argument, Harris offers a measured refutation of the beliefs that form the core of fundamentalist Christianity. In the course of his argument, he addresses current topics ranging from intelligent design and stem-cell research to the connections between religion and violence. In Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris boldly challenges the influence that faith has on public life in our nation.-Goodreads

Review: If you are a critic of religion, there is nothing new here. But I like SH's voice and logical response to religious dogma. 

Overall, a quick, short and enjoyable read. 

Grade: 4/5

In a Dark, Dark Wood

Book: In a Dark, Dark Wood
Author: Ruth Ware

In a dark, dark wood

Nora hasn't seen Clare for ten years. Not since Nora walked out of school one day and never went back.

There was a dark, dark house

Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s hen arrives. Is this a chance for Nora to finally put her past behind her?

And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room

But something goes wrong. Very wrong.

And in the dark, dark room....

Some things can’t stay secret for ever.-Goodreads

Review: I had high hopes for this book. Nora is a 26-year old writer who hasn't spoken to her childhood best friend, Clare, since they were 16. Nor has she spoken to her teenage boyfriend James. When she receives an invitation to Clare's hen (bachelorette) weekend,  she decides to go. Told in alternating timelines, we follow Nora at the hen and Nora after the hen in the hospital, where someone has been killed and she has short-term memory loss. 

This book certainly had me turning the pages. However, I just could not get over the fact that Nora, a 26-year old woman, is still mourning her teenage relationship with James (of course Clare is now engaged to...James). Nora acknowledges that it's ridiculous that she can't get over James but I could not stop rolling my eyes at her (side note: teenage friendships and relationships breaking up and people not getting over them well into their 20s..this seems to be a theme in books recently). Even more ridiculous than Nora, was the killer (who was easy to spot a mile away) whose motivations were also rooted in teenage angst. 

I think this could have been a good book if the events in the past happened in college-that would have make this more believable. 

Overall, not my favorite book but I didn't hate it. I've heard great things about 'The Woman in Cabin 10' and plan to read it. 

Grade: 2/5


Book: RoomHate
Author: Penelope Ward

Sharing a summer house with a hot-as-hell roommate should be a dream come true, right?

Not when it’s Justin…the only person I’d ever loved…who now hates me.

When my grandmother died and left me half of the house on Aquidneck Island, there was a catch: the other half would go to the boy she helped raise.

The same boy who turned into the teenager whose heart I broke years ago.

The same teenager who’s now a man with a hard body and a hardass personality to match.

I hadn’t seen him in years, and now we’re living together because neither one of us is willing to give up the house.

The worst part? He didn’t come alone.

I’d soon realize there’s a thin line between love and hate. I could see through that smug smile. Beneath it all…the boy is still there. So is our connection.

The problem is…now that I can’t have Justin, I’ve never wanted him more.-Goodreads

Review:  Amelia and Justin were childhood best friends until she fled town at age 15. Although she attempted to apologize to Justin a year later, he was not ready to forgive her. Fast forward about 9 years, and they have now inherited her grandmother's house together. Justin still hasn't fully forgiven Amelia, although when it's revealed why she left town...I feel like he should have gotten over it YEARS ago. The tension between the characters was pretty good and I was hoping for a steamy romance..until the big twist (which I didn't see coming) happened about halfway. At that point, this book went from a potentially good romance to a bad Lifetime movie. I found Justin to be very likable while Amelia was rather wooden-a lot of her dialogue didn't seem genuine. 

Overall, it was an okay read. 

Grade: 2/5

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Book: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Series: Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children #1
Author: Ransom Riggs

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.

A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography.-Goodreads

Review: The best thing about this book? The vintage photographs. I found them very creepy and pretty cool. The story itself? I was initially annoyed with Jacob as a character (he epitomizes 'spoiled rich boy') but as the book went on, I found him to be devoid of any personality whatsoever. As for the children's home, I felt like it was a Gothic version of X-Men, with less interesting characters. I didn't find the story creepy or scary. 

Overall-disappointed in this but the photographs are neat. 

Grade: 2/5