Wednesday, 9 August 2017

A Stranger in the House

Author: Shari Lapena
Genre: Suspense, Canadian
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 423
Source: Publisher
First Published: August 15, 2017
First Line: "She doesn't belong here."

Book Description from GoodReadsFrom the New York Times bestselling author of The Couple Next Door, a new thriller featuring a suspicious accident, a wife who can't account for herself and unsettling questions that threaten to tear a couple apart.

You come home after a long day at work, excited to have dinner with your beautiful wife.
But when you walk through the door, you quickly realize that she's not there.
In the kitchen, there is a pot on the stove, and vegetables on the counter, abandoned.
Her cellphone and her purse are still in the house, in the bedroom, exactly where she keeps them.
It looks like she's left in a blind panic.
You fear the worst, so you call her friends to see if they know where she is.
Then you call the police.
The police tell you that your wife's been in an accident. They found her in the worst part of town, after she lost control of the car while speeding through the streets. But why would she go to that neighbourhood? And why was she driving so fast? Was she running toward something? Or away from something?
The police think your wife was up to no good.
You refuse to believe it, at first.
Then, as the stories and facts don't line up, and your wife can't remember what happened that evening, you start to wonder. You've been married for two years and you thought you knew her better than anyone else in the world . . . but maybe you don't. 
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to DoubleDay Canada for providing me with a paperback copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Rating: 3 stars

My Review: Last year I found Shari Lapena's debut novel, The Couple Next Door, gripping, intense and filled with twists that messed with my head. Oh ya, it was that good and easily became one of my favourite summer reads of 2016.

Lapena is back with her sophomore novel and once again there are twists and suspicions run rampant but, unfortunately, I can't say that it lived up to my expectations. My expectations were, admittedly, rather high based on how much I loved her first book but this time around the intensity was lacking and a few of the twists were predictable.

The book started off very strong with an interesting premise but I hesitated to up my rating to four stars for a few reasons. First, I wasn't a fan of the characters. While you get their points of view I still didn't feel like I knew them and none were very likable. I need to be able to get behind a character and I just didn't have a connection to any of them. I also thought the writing style/dialogue felt a little awkward this time around and I wasn't a fan of the ending.

While this wasn't quite as explosive of a read as I had been expecting, it did keep me guessing and was a quick read which would make it a good summer pick. Fans of slow simmering suspense filled with mystery, fear, obsession and some intrigue, who enjoy a long list of suspects to keep them guessing should enjoy this read.  

Monday, 7 August 2017

Close to Home

Author: Robert Dugoni
Genre: Suspense
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Series: #5 in the Tracy Crosswhite series
Publisher: Thomas and Mercer
First Published: September 5, 2017
First Line: "D'Andre Miller pushed open the glass doors of the Rainier Beach Community Center and stepped out into the frigid night."

Book Description from GoodReadsWhile investigating the hit-and-run death of a young boy, Seattle homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite makes a startling discovery: the suspect is an active-duty serviceman at a local naval base. After a key piece of case evidence goes missing, he is cleared of charges in a military court. But Tracy knows she can’t turn her back on this kind of injustice.

When she uncovers the driver’s ties to a rash of recent heroin overdoses in the city, she realizes that this isn’t just a case of the military protecting its own. It runs much deeper than that, and the accused wasn’t acting alone. For Tracy, it’s all hitting very close to home.

As Tracy moves closer to uncovering the truth behind this insidious conspiracy, she’s putting herself in harm’s way. And the only people she can rely on to make it out alive might be those she can no longer trust.

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Thomas and Mercer for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Rating: 3.5 stars

My Review: The Tracy Crosswhite series is one of my go-to series when I want edge-of-your-seat scenes and a solid main character who has just enough baggage, humour, stubbornness, courage and back-up to get the job done.

The series features Tracy Crosswhite, a homicide detective in the Violent Crimes division of the Seattle police force. Close to Home, the fifth installment of the series, is a multi-layered story that focuses on the hit-and-run of a child and the heroin epidemic. 

Dugoni gives readers a lot to think about and balances the emotional affects of losing a loved one to drugs with a no-holds-barred look at street drugs. He brings up several interesting, and sometimes controversial, topics including the benefits of free clinics as safe injection sites for addicts to decrease the risk of overdosing and how the legalization of marijuana has caused drastic change in the drugs that are readily available on the street. These issues add much to the plot and their ramifications are far more complicated than I had ever imagined. 

This gritty plot line gets personal as readers witness how the overdosing of his niece has greatly affected Del Castigliano, one of Tracy's fellow homicide detectives. Del takes the reigns for much of the book and his grief over his niece was touching and gave his character depth. I also enjoyed the introduction of Celia McDaniel - she's an intelligent, strong woman who adds much to Del's story line. While Tracy shares the spotlight this time out, her personal life, though touching, didn't grab me quite as much and I fear how this plot line will influence future books.

I wouldn't say that this book grabbed me as much as others in the series but it was still a solid read. I'm not a big fan of military story lines and while the view into the Navy and JAG added something different, the military legal plot line fell a little flat for me. I also had issues with the fact that Del would be allowed to work on his niece's case - I can't see that ever happening, staffing issues or not, buuuut it's fiction and Del's story line was my favourite of the bunch.

This is a twisty, multi-layered suspense read that brings the issue of addiction and drugs to the forefront while giving readers a look into the Navy's hierarchy and its JAG system. If you're looking for a great series with strong characters and some edge-of-your-seat, twisty action then I highly recommend this series.

Note: While these books can be read as stand-alones I'd recommend reading them in order or at least reading My Sister's Grave first to understand where Tracy's emotional scars come from.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

What To Say Next

Author: Julie Buxbaum
Genre: Teen, Contemporary Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 292
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Delacorte Press
First Published: July 11, 2017
First Line: "An unprecedented event: Kit Lowell just sat down next to me in the cafeteria."

Book Description from GoodReadsFrom the New York Times bestselling author of Tell Me Three Things comes a charming and poignant story about two struggling teenagers who find an unexpected connection just when they need it most. For fans of Sophie Kinsella, Jennifer Niven, and Rainbow Rowell.

Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her. 

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Delacorte Press for providing me with a hardcover copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Rating: 4 stars

My Review: This book is about the unexpected relationship between two teens - a popular girl and a boy with Asperger's. 

Kit is struggling over the death of her father and while her friends have been supportive, they are ready for her to move on. But Kit isn't ready. Frustrated, she eats lunch with David, a boy known for his quirky behaviour, and finds his direct honesty refreshing and much needed.  

David is a unique character and, like Kit, I enjoyed getting a look at the world through his eyes. Kit and David are polar opposites on the social spectrum; he's a loner and Kit is popular but they seem to fill in the spaces that the other person lacks. Secondary characters are used well in the story and I appreciated that they
 aren't just fluffy sidekicks. Instead, they add a lot to helping the reader to better understand Kit and David.

This book has a lighter feel but still tackles some big issues and I liked seeing the underlying theme of diversity. Whether it's cultural diversity (Kit is half East Indian/half white) or social diversity in the school cafeteria, I appreciated how that theme was woven into the general story.

Overall, this was a good read but it wasn't until the twist at the end that this book garnered an extra star from me. I love it when authors can surprise me and Buxbaum's revelation made me view some relationships/events in a different light. This Teen read has its unique characters as well as cute, awkward, sad and uplifting moments making it a great pick for a summer read. 

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Movie Review: Gifted (2017)

Actors: Chris Evans,  McKenna Grace, Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate, Lindsay Duncan
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Family Drama
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Run Time: 100 minutes

My Review: I don't think I've ever reviewed a movie on my blog but there's a first time for everything.

And I reaaaally loved this movie.

Gifted is a touching story about family (in all its many, complicated forms), loss, forgiveness and helping children reach their potential in the various aspects of their lives. It's the story about a young girl named Mary whose uncle is dedicated to raising her to be a normal child.  But Mary isn't normal.  She's a math prodigy whose family has more than their fair share of baggage.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this movie but picked it up at the library because, let's be honest, Chris Evans and Octavia Spencer are in a movie together. Did I mention Chris Evans?  But I digress ... I knew very little about this movie before popping it in my DVD player but was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I became engaged in the lives of Frank and Mary. 

This film has got a lot of heart, a touch of humour and, like I mentioned, a truly stellar cast. We have Chris 'Captain America' Evans as Frank Adler, the uncle who is trying to do his best to raise his young and brilliant niece so that she leads a normal life. I enjoyed seeing a new, tender side to Evans and I liked that he got to exercise his acting chops more than his biceps in this movie. 

Then you have Oscar winner Octavia Spencer who is always captivating and could play a potted palm that would leave me slack jawed in awe of her. The only person in this film who can hold a candle to Ms Spencer may be young McKenna Grace who plays Mary Adler, the 7-year-old child at the heart of the movie. Wow, can this girl act. Grace is as talented as her eye lashes are long. Her portrayal of the precocious, brilliant young girl is wonderfully natural, touching and believable. She vacillates between childish innocence, a spunky attitude (and a wee case of potty mouth) and shows viewers Mary's extraordinary brilliance which is well beyond her years. The deep connection between Evans and Grace comes through to the audience and I recommend that viewers keep some Kleenex handy.  

The cast of characters also had a complexity to them that I wasn't expecting. This is a complicated family situation filled with emotion, power struggles and grief. You'll feel for Frank as he struggles to figure out what is best for Mary in the wake of family upheaval that threatens to damage the bond between them. 

Overall, this is a wonderful little movie that is endearing, poignant and shows the complexities of family. You will quickly become wrapped up in the lives of Frank, Mary and even Fred, their one-eyed cat. I highly recommend this movie.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Bring Her Home

Author: David Bell
Genre: Suspense
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Berkley
First Published: July 11, 2017
First Line: "Bill Price stepped into the whirling chaos of the emergency room."

Book Description from GoodReadsIn the breathtaking new thriller from David Bell, bestselling author of Since She Went Away and Somebody I Used to Know, the fate of two missing teenage girls becomes a father's worst nightmare.... 

Just a year and a half after the tragic death of his wife, Bill Price's fifteen-year-old daughter, Summer, and her best friend, Haley, disappear. Days later, the girls are found in a city park. Haley is dead at the scene, while Summer is left beaten beyond recognition and clinging to life.

As Bill holds vigil over Summer's bandaged body, the only sound the unconscious girl can make is one cryptic and chilling word: No. And the more time Bill spends with Summer, the more he wonders what happened to her. Or if the injured girl in the hospital bed is really his daughter at all.

When troubling new questions about Summer's life surface, Bill is not prepared for the aftershocks. He'll soon discover that both the living and the dead have secrets. And that searching for the truth will tear open old wounds that pierce straight to the heart of his family...

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Berkley Publishing for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Rating: 3 stars

My Review: This is my first David Bell book and I was initially attracted to its vibrant cover and then enticed by its summary. Missing girls, secrets and potentially mistaken identities? Sounds good, right?

Bring Her Home is a well paced domestic thriller with short chapters that keep the story flowing. There are a few (obvious) red herrings and I picked out the culprit early on but there were a couple of twists that surprised me. Unfortunately, I found the plot lacked the intensity that I expect from a suspense read and it wasn't until later in the book that I felt wrapped up in the plot.

This book has a great premise but it's biggest issue was its main character, Bill. Readers spend a lot of time in Bill's head and it's not a nice place to be. He's an angry man who struggles daily to keep his volatile temper in check. Granted, he has had to deal with much loss and normally I'd be all over supporting a character like that. But any sympathy I had for him was quickly lost when he'd repeatedly and regularly lose his cool and lash out with little to no provocation. He seems to care about his daughter but his hotheadedness and his awkward, repetitive inner dialogue seemed to take centre stage to his paternal feelings. That got on my nerves and gave the book more of a movie-of-the-week, overly dramatized feel.

Overall, this was a decent read. It has its suspenseful moments, some twists and a great premise but fell a little short in its character development and dialogue. If you're looking for a lighter, summery, sittin'-by-the-pool kind of suspense read then you may want to pick this one up.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Hum If You Don't Know The Words

Author: Bianca Marais
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Setting: South Africa
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 420
Source: Publisher
Publisher: G.P Putnam Books
First Published: July 11, 2017
First Line: "I joined up the last two lines of the hopscotch grid and wrote a big "10" in the top square."

Book Description from GoodReadsPerfect for readers of The Secret Life of Bees and The Help, a perceptive and searing look at Apartheid-era South Africa, told through one unique family brought together by tragedy.

Life under Apartheid has created a secure future for Robin Conrad, a nine-year-old white girl living with her parents in 1970's Johannesburg. In the same nation but worlds apart, Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman in a rural village in the Bantu homeland of the Transkei, struggles to raise her children alone after her husband's death. Both lives have been built upon the division of race, and their meeting should never have occurred . . . until the Soweto Uprising, in which a protest by black students ignites racial conflict, alters the fault lines on which their society is built, and shatters their worlds when Robin’s parents are left dead and Beauty’s daughter goes missing.

After Robin is sent to live with her loving but irresponsible aunt, Beauty is hired to care for Robin while continuing the search for her daughter. In Beauty, Robin finds the security and family that she craves, and the two forge an inextricable bond through their deep personal losses. But Robin knows that if Beauty finds her daughter, Robin could lose her new caretaker forever, so she makes a desperate decision with devastating consequences. Her quest to make amends and find redemption is a journey of self-discovery in which she learns the harsh truths of the society that once promised her protection.

Told through Beauty and Robin's alternating perspectives, the interwoven narratives create a rich and complex tapestry of the emotions and tensions at the heart of Apartheid-era South Africa. Hum if You Don’t Know the Words is a beautifully rendered look at loss, racism, and the creation of family.

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to G.P Putnam for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Rating: 4 stars

My Review: Hum If You Don't Know The Words is a wonderful book that gave me all the feels. It made me cry, laugh, angry, shocked and even hopeful. But what surprised me was that this is Bianca Marais' debut novel. Marais uses imagery and beautiful, even poetic, language to describe South Africa's multicultural and linguistic diversity as well as the complicated and blatantly bigoted dynamics between South Africans in the 1970's. 

I have always been an avid reader of books dealing with racism and civil rights and after reading (and loving) Trevor Noah's book Born a Crime a couple of months ago I have become more interested in books related to Apartheid. With this book, Marais sheds light on the flagrant racism and abuse of power of Apartheid and also addresses other issues including homophobia, loss, grief, abandonment, bravery and the deep need we have for family connections.

Marais humanizes Apartheid by showing how the Soweto Uprising on June 16, 1976 affected her two main characters. The story is narrated by two very different points of view - Beauty, a highly educated Black Xhosa single mother and teacher from the Transkei region and Robin, a 10-year-old white girl from the Johannesburg suburbs. These two are brought together after the Uprising and show two contrasting views of the effects of Apartheid and the prevalent, often flippant attitude of racism as the status quo.

Both Robin and Beauty are given equal page time and are well-rounded characters but I had a much stronger connection to Beauty.  She had such strength, tenacity, grace and conviction even after enduring unimaginable losses and hardship. Robin is precocious and deals with the loss of her family in her unique way. She was often used to bring some humour to the story. While these lighter moments offset the more serious scenes, at times, it got to be a bit much.

I will caution readers that there were a few scenes, especially towards the end involving Robin, that will require readers to suspend belief. This is fiction, I get that, but I think that the story went a little too far past what I'd feel was plausible. That is the only part of the book that faltered for me. Otherwise, this is an outstanding read that will keep readers transfixed. 

Hum If You Don't Know The Words will hit readers in the heart, head and hopefully conscience about how we need to treat and respect others. A little compassion, respect and empathy can go a long, long way. This is a poignant and important story that shows the damaging and long-lasting effects of inequality and bigotry with heart, some humour and wonderfully vivid language.


Saturday, 22 July 2017

The Woman Who Left

Author: Josephine Cox
Genre: Light Historical Fiction/Women's Fiction
Type: Mass Market Paperback
Pages: 423
Source: Personal Copy
Publisher: Headline Book Publishing
First Published: 2001
First Line: "The old man's voice carried on the summer breeze."

Book Description from GoodReadsLouise and Ben Hunter's loving marriage is marred only by their unfulfilled longing for a child. Living and working with Ben's father, Ronnie, they are quietly contented. But when Ronnie dies, their whole world changes. Ben's lazy brother, Jacob, returns, convinced he stands to inherit Ronnie's small fortune. And he means to have his brother's wife; though just as she did years before, Louise warns him off. Jacob, however, is not so easily dismissed. When he realizes Ben will inherit everything, Jacob is beside himself with rage, and commits a terrible deed, one that threatens to destroy everything his brother and Louise hold dear.

My Rating: 2 stars

My Review: When I was in my 20's I enjoyed lighter reads and Josephine Cox was one of my go-to light fiction authors. You know the kind of read - nothing too heavy, with fairly predictable characters and a plot that I could easily jump in and out of between my interpreting gigs.  

I've had this book on my shelves for many years and finally got around to reading it in my feeble attempt to 'read what I own'. While I admit that the Light Historical Fiction genre is no longer my 'cuppa tea', The Woman Who Left still falls considerably short for me in terms of plot and character development. There's light fiction and then there's weak fiction and this book, unfortunately, falls into the latter category.

While I appreciated how tertiary characters introduced certain scenes and gave the 
book a small town feel, the characters were cliched, one-dimensional and behaved exactly as you'd expect. When you add in the plot that didn't have a lot of meat to it and the overabundance of banal dialogue sprinkled throughout, it's not surprising that I wasn't a fan of this book.

Preferences change over time and I can't say that I continue to be a big reader of the Light Historical Fiction genre. That said, this book was weak in too many ways making my lack of enthusiasm for the book more than just a genre issue.  

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Words in Deep Blue

Author: Cath Crowley
Genre: Teen, Contemporary Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 273
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Alfred A Knopf Books for Young Readers
First Published: August 30, 2016
First Line: "Every love story is a ghost story."

Book Description from GoodReadsLove lives between the lines.

Years ago, Rachel had a crush on Henry Jones. The day before she moved away, she tucked a love letter into his favorite book in his family’s bookshop. She waited. But Henry never came. 

Now Rachel has returned to the city—and to the bookshop—to work alongside the boy she’d rather not see, if at all possible, for the rest of her life. But Rachel needs the distraction, and the escape. Her brother drowned months ago, and she can’t feel anything anymore. She can’t see her future.

Henry’s future isn’t looking too promising, either. His girlfriend dumped him. The bookstore is slipping away. And his family is breaking apart.

As Henry and Rachel work side by side—surrounded by books, watching love stories unfold, exchanging letters between the pages—they find hope in each other. Because life may be uncontrollable, even unbearable sometimes. But it’s possible that words, and love, and second chances are enough.

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Knopf Publishing for providing me with a hardcover copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Rating: 3 stars

My Review: I picked up this book based on its bookishly blissful locale - a secondhand bookshop and its Letter Library - a spot where the books are not for purchase but instead act as a drop off point for people to leave personal letters to each other. The back and forth between the recipients was a unique way to tell the story and ... it's a bookshop, people! 'Nuff said.

The book has a good premise and a varied cast. Rachel and Henry had some delightfully witty banter but I didn't quite feel their romantic bond. As main characters go, they were a little underwhelming. Henry was nervous and desperately needy and he's hung up on his on-again/off-again girlfriend Amy (the poster child for narcissism and whose redeeming qualities only Henry can see through his rose coloured glasses). Rachel's profound loss over her brother is sad and I felt for her but I didn't connect with her either. All is not lost though, I quite enjoyed secondary characters George and Martin who were quite endearing, a breath of fresh air and my favourite characters of the bunch.

Overall, the pacing was on the slower side but I was kept engaged. The plot has some teen angst and family issues that propelled it along but I wasn't a fan of misunderstandings between the characters. You know, the kind that can be resolved with a simple one minute conversation? I sort of understood why Rachel kept the death of her brother a secret. But when there are misunderstandings that could have been easily fixed but the author chooses to draw it out for too long, it bothers me and reminds me of an episode of Three's Company (I'm dating myself).

This book had a great setting and premise but it's lighter on the emotion and depth than I was expecting. The unique use of the Letter Library and the author's obvious love of books are what will stand out the most for me. This is a lighter read with some twists, a focus on unrequited love and the sometimes all-consuming feelings of loss. If you're a bibliophile and in the mood for a lighter, sometimes funny, slightly angsty teen read you may want to pick this book up.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Walking With Miss Millie

Author: Tamara Bundy
Genre: Middle School Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 227
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books (imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group)
First Published: July 4, 2017
First Line: "The day we pulled into Rainbow, Mama was pulling out all her tricks to distract us, trying to pretend we hadn't just left every one of our friends ten hours behind."

Book Description from GoodReadsA poignant middle grade debut about the friendship between a white girl and an elderly black woman in the 1960s South.

Alice is angry at having to move to Rainbow, Georgia—a too small, too hot, dried-up place she’s sure will never feel like home. Then she gets put in charge of walking her elderly neighbor’s dog. But Clarence won’t budge without Miss Millie, so Alice and Miss Millie walk him together. Strolling with Miss Millie quickly becomes the highlight of Alice’s day, as she learns about the town’s past and meets a mix of its catty and kind residents. As the two become confidantes, Alice is finally able to express her heartache over her father’s desertion; and when Miss Millie tells her family story, Alice begins to understand the shameful history of Segregation, and recognize the racism they need to fight against. Navigating the neighborhood with Miss Millie gives Alice new perspective, the wisdom to move on from her anger, and even enables her to laugh again.

Tamara Bundy’s beautifully written story reminds readers that there is nothing like friendship to lighten one’s load, and make anyplace a home.

My Rating: 4 stars

My Review: Walking With Miss Millie is a Middle School novel about Alice, a ten-year-old girl who finds herself in a new town with her mom and brother as they uproot their lives and move south to help Alice's ailing grandmother in 1968 small town Georgia. Alice is angry and didn't want to make the move. She misses her absentee father and eagerly awaits the day that he'll finally show up and take them home. Alice finds herself initially forced to take daily walks with her elderly neighbour (and her curmudgeonly dog) but what she didn't expect was the touching and much needed bond that resulted.

At the heart of this book is the poignant relationship between Miss Millie, a 92-year-old African American woman and Alice. They are a unique pair and their bond highlights the importance of friendship, multi-generational influences on our kids and the notion that people are far more alike than they are different.  

Bundy gets into the mindset and vernacular of a ten-year-old girl as she raises several big issues -- abandonment by a parent, forgiveness, loss, friendship, bullying, the effects of Alzheimer's etc. I liked the inclusion of a Deaf secondary character (based on the author's own brother) and how Bundy shows how Deaf people were/are treated and misunderstood by the hearing world. While there are many issues raised, the focus is on racism. Readers will witness how some townspeople treat Millie and understand more about her as she shares stories from her earlier life. These are touching scenes that approach Civil Rights and racism at a Middle School level.

My only criticism is that there may have been too many issues within one wee book. The issues are handled well but the 227 pages weren't enough time to go into much depth in terms of issues or characters. There's a lot going on in this book but parents/teachers can look at it as a starting point for discussions on the various topics raised.

This is a book about the friendship between an unexpected pair who enter each other's lives at the right moment. Alice provides Millie with friendship and Millie is a calming force in Alice's turbulent life. She helps Alice navigate the adversity in her life, shows the importance of kindness and shares some wonderfully quotable tidbits of wisdom to her young neighbour.  

"But maybe the most important thing is for people to just be kind."

Walking With Miss Millie is a touching coming of age story about a friendship that defies age and race and would be a good read for children Grades 4 and up.

Favourite Quotes:
"Poor Grandma. On her bad days, she couldn't remember things. But on her good days, she couldn't forget not remembering." ~ Alice

"I learned it's okay to get mad. It's okay to get sad, but after all that gettin' mad and sad, ya gotta get smart. Ya gotta take a step back, away from all your hurtin', and figure out what ya can change and what ya can't." ~ Miss Millie

Thursday, 13 July 2017

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 390
Source: Personal copy
Publisher: Atria
First Line: "Evelyn Hugo to auction off gowns."

Book Description from GoodReadsFrom Taylor Jenkins Reid, “a genius when it comes to stories about life and love” (Redbook), comes an unforgettable and sweeping novel about one classic film actress’s relentless rise to the top—the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950's to her decision to leave show business in the late '80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Written with Reid’s signature talent for “creating complex, likable characters” (Real Simple), this is a fascinating journey through the splendor of Old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it takes—to face the truth.

My Rating: 5 stars

My Review: This is an utterly engaging look at a Hollywood icon - her trials, tribulations, successes and multiple marriages - as she struggles to make her way in life, love and career within the confines of Hollywood and those she creates for herself.

Evelyn is a complex character. She's stunningly beautiful, head strong and confident in some aspects of her life. As a young woman, she doesn't always make the right choices but she's a compelling character that readers will gravitate towards. Readers will become engrossed in Evelyn's life as she struggles to find love, accept love and find her true self - unabashedly and totally. Personally, I loved the older Evelyn who had paid her dues, made her mistakes and came out of it all with a quiet confidence, strength and self-awareness.

Evelyn isn't a character that I'd normally enjoy ... and yet, I liked her. I really liked her. She's exceptionally flawed but she's aware of many of her flaws - she accepts some, regrets a few and is unashamed of many. She has used her body and played the Hollywood game to further her career in an industry that didn't value strong, independent women. She made horrible choices, betrayed loved ones and even ignored parts of her own identity to further her career. But underlying it all there was always a glimmer of a woman I could get behind as a main character and I wanted to see her succeed, despite herself. 

The story is told with two different time lines with Reid dropping juicy tidbits to keep her readers attention. The first time line follows Evelyn as a young starlet in Hollywood and the other, decades later, focuses on an elderly Evelyn as she tells her life story to Monique, a young, unknown journalist. There are some twists thrown in and the mystery of why Monique was chosen to write the memoir added mystery to the book. 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a mesmerizing read that gives readers a bird's eye view into Hollywood and touches on some bigger issues, including sexism, sexuality, owning up to one's choices and even has its touching and romantic scenes too. 

Your emotions will get a work out with this book. You'll laugh, feel exasperated, cry, get all mushy with true love and even enraged! And through it all you'll find yourself cheering on this unique, sassy and flawed character who persevered, lied, loved and betrayed to achieve success at the box office and in her personal life as she struggled to know herself. This is some wonderful storytelling that would make a fantastic summer read if you want to delve into old Hollywood with a truly unique and flawed character that you can't help but root for.

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