Monday, June 26, 2017

ARC Book Review: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Release Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher:Ballantine Books
Format: Kindle
Pages: 352 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Buy: Kindle | Hardcover


Synopsis:

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize that the truth is much darker. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together—in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aitken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancĂ©, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions—and compels her to take a journey through her family's long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation . . . or redemption.


Review:


This was a really interesting story based on America's most notorious and scandalous woman Georgia Tann who kidnapped children from poor families and sold them to wealthy families all over the country.  She had politicians, judges and attorneys in her corner but her and her cohorts actually terrorized, molested, and murdered an unbelievable number of children. Her unfortunate legacy still holds precedent over adoption legislation today such as closed adoption records.

Wingate tells Tann's story from the point of view of some of the kids who were stolen and the impact her blackmail, lies and kidnapping had on families.  With alternating chapters you learn the story of Rill and her siblings and parents from their point of view and from the view of one of the granddaughters who is desperately trying to uncover what her grandmother has tried so hard to hide.

Your heart will break for Rill, her siblings and her parents Briny and Queenie whose whole world was destroyed by Tann. Avery Stafford is a granddaughter of one of the stolen children, raised in privilege her father is a senator and she is being groomed to take his seat when he vacates it. But she isn't sure she wants it.  There are really 2 stories here..with a common theme of lives that are decided for them instead.

I really enjoyed this book although I did find it a bit difficult to figure out who the modern characters were compared to the ones from the past.  Tann liked to change the children's names making it harder for their biological families to find them and it was difficult to figure out who each character was from the past. Eventually I figured it out and there was an aha moment when I figured out how Avery's grandmother fit.

If you want to read more about Tann try The Baby Thief by Barbara Bisantz Raymond.


Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review. 



Monday, June 19, 2017

ARC Book Review: Lockdown by Laurie R. King

Release Date; June 13, 2017
Publisher: Bantam
Format: Kindle
Pages: 400
Genre:  Mystery
Buy: Kindle | Hardcover

Synopsis:

Career Day at Guadalupe Middle School: A day given to innocent hopes and youthful dreams. A day no one in attendance will ever forget.

A year ago, Principal Linda McDonald arrived at Guadalupe determined to overturn the school’s reputation for truancy, gang violence, and neglect. One of her initiatives is Career Day—bringing together children, teachers, and community presenters in a celebration of the future. But there are some in attendance who reject McDonald’s bright vision.

A principal with a secret. A husband with a murky past. A cop with too many questions. A kid under pressure to prove himself. A girl struggling to escape a mother’s history. A young basketball player with an affection for guns.

Even the school janitor has a story he dare not reveal.

But no one at the gathering anticipates the shocking turn of events that will transform a day of possibilities into an explosive confrontation.

Review:


I've read several of Laurie R. King's other books so I was happy to pick her up again.  I liked how a few of the characters from one of her other series made a guest appearance in this book.

Everyone has secrets.  From the Principal to the Janitor, from the cool kid to the awkward everyone has something they hide.  Learning pieces of everyone's back story in alternating chapters really developed all the characters and made me start questioning what was going to happen.  I was pleasantly surprised it was not at all what I expected but good none the less.

This is not a fast paced book but rather a slow burning build up to its climax.  While I really enjoyed it I can see why others may not have been as engaged.  There are a lot of characters and a lot of things going on in this school. This is a school riddled with crime and now a missing girl. The new Principal comes in to try to clean it up and improve the situation even holding a career day for the kids so they can see the some of their options other than sports.  I think if there were a few less plot lines this may have been a better book.  It wasn't confusing to me but I started to get invested and wanted to know more about certain characters only to have to move on to another before I was really satisfied.  While some may think of this as a good thing I think it held the book back a bit.


Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher through netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review. 



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

ARC Review: Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber

Release Date: August 1, 2017
Publisher: Gallery Books
Format: Kindle
Pages: 336 pages
Genre: Suspense / Thriller
Buy: Kindle | Hardcover


Synopsis:

The only thing more dangerous than a lie...is the truth.

Josie Buhrman has spent the last ten years trying to escape her family’s reputation and with good reason. After her father's murder thirteen years prior, her mother ran away to join a cult and her twin sister Lanie, once Josie’s closest friend and confidant, betrayed her in an unimaginable way. Now, Josie has finally put down roots in New York, settling into domestic life with her partner Caleb, and that’s where she intends to stay.

The only problem is that she has lied to Caleb about every detail of her past—starting with her last name.

When investigative reporter Poppy Parnell sets off a media firestorm with a mega-hit podcast that reopens the long-closed case of Josie’s father’s murder, Josie’s world begins to unravel. Meanwhile, the unexpected death of Josie’s long-absent mother forces her to return to her Midwestern hometown where she must confront the demons from her past—and the lies on which she has staked her future.

Review:


If you haven't listened to Serial or any of the other popular crime podcasts that delve into different crimes you are about to get a first hand look into what they can do. Josie and her twin sister don't speak anymore but after a podcast starts delving into her fathers murder her life gets turned upside down.

This is an interesting mystery with passages from the podcast thrown in here and there.  Poppy Parnell's podcast is a bit more tabloid than the real crime podcasts I've listened to but it worked for the book.  As the issues between Josie and her twin Lanie unfold you start to wonder what happened to Lanie that she took such a different turn.  All of the characters are really well developed with the exception of Poppy who seemed more of a caricature than an actual person.  Every horrible tabloid reporter was rolled into her character leaving her too unrealistic.  I found that I wanted to know more about Josie and Lanies mother who seemed crazy even before all this madness went down.  So I'm sure there would be a good backstory there.

This is Kathleen Barber's first book and it is a hit.  The premise is refreshing and the writing simple and fast paced but the characters well developed.  Overall a very well done read.  I can't wait to see what else comes from this author.



Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Book Review: The Noticer by Andy Andrews

Release Date: April 11, 2011
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Format: Paperback
Pages: 177 pages
Genre: Self Help/ Spiritual
Buy: Kindle | Paperback


Synopsis:

Orange Beach, Alabama is a simple town filled with simple people.  But like all humans on the planet, the good folks of Orange Beach have their share of problems – marriages teetering on the brink of divorce, young adults giving up on life, business people on the verge of bankruptcy, as well as the many other obstacles that life seems to dish out to the masses.
Fortunately, when things look the darkest – a mysterious man named Jones has a miraculous way of showing up.  An elderly man with white hair, of indiscriminate age and race, wearing blue jeans, a white T-shirt and leather flip flops carrying a battered old suitcase, Jones is a unique soul.  Communicating what he calls “a little perspective,” Jones explains that he has been given a gift of noticing things that others miss.  “Your time on this earth is a gift to be used wisely,” he says.  “Don’t squander your words or your thoughts. Consider even the simplest action you take, for your lives matter beyond measure…and they matter forever.”
Jones speaks to that part in everyone that is yearning to understand why things happen and what we can do about it.

Review:

Sometimes the best advice is simple. The Noticer is filled with that type of advice.  Be conscious of what you say, what you think and what you do.  Your thoughts become reality.  Plant the seeds of compassion, love and caring in your heart and nurture them, share them and help others in need and live in gratitude.

Andrews has written a book that is very readable and yet filled with simple yet very important wisdom.  The subtitle, sometimes all a person needs is a little perspective is so true.  Often when we step back and look at things from a different angle we realize that things aren't as difficult as they seem.

The writing is very simple, almost childish but sometimes in order to get an important message across we need to use the simplest language.  Some may find that this book has some Christian undertones but was not explicitly any religion and I think that depending on your religion you could put one of your prophets in there as Jones and find that the advice would be the same.

I didn't need a lot of character development since this book is really just a vehicle to plant seeds of a different way to see things in life to help you improve your outlook and your life.


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