Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Driving Lessons, by Zoe Fishman

Sarah has spent years living in New York City, to the point where the city has become a part of her identity.  When her husband, Josh, takes a job in Virginia, she is faced with leaving everything she knows, and trying to find her true self.  Along the way, she is forced to confront her fears, examine her relationships, and help two other women in her life adjust to their own new realities.

I love a book about female characters who are lovably flawed, in ways with which I can fully relate.  As a woman the same age as Sarah, I found myself totally understanding her fears about her identity, both as a career woman, and as a woman contemplating motherhood.  I love that the three women in the book basically start out on somewhat similar paths, and find their journeys vastly different, yet interwoven and compatible.  It helped me see the irony in everyday situations.

I really loved Sarah as a character.  I thought she was well developed, and very likable, even in her slightly less likable moments.  She possesses a sweetness of spirit that I found refreshing.  Typically, sweet characters appear naive, but Sarah is not.  She is simply good, yet still flawed.  I really adored her compassion to her friend dealing with a crisis; the scenes between Sarah and Mona, the friend, are very tender in their own mildly acerbic way.  

This is a good book about female identity, relationships, independence, and interconnectedness.  I really loved it, and would recommend it to readers fond of books focusing on female characters which out being overt chick lit.  This should be on a lot of summer reading lists.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Girl Who Came Home, by Hazel Gaynor

Maggie Murphy is leaving everything she loves behind in her small town in Ireland.  She leaves her friends, her home, and her love Seamus, to travel to America on the Titanic.  We all know that tragedies befell the passengers of that ship, but we learn that Maggie survived, and many years later shares the story with her great granddaughter.

I am fascinated by the stories of the Titanic.  I cannot imagine what it would have been like to have lived at the time when this happened.  I cannot imagine how it would have felt as the nation mourned this tragedy.  As someone who has enjoyed other books and movies on the topic, I felt certain I would enjoy this book.  And I did, though it was uncertain for a while.

The book starts off with excellent character development of Maggie.  We learn her backstory, and why she is reluctant to read.  We also get to know some other minor characters from the past, as well as some characters from the future.  The thing that put me off, just the slightest bit, was the amount of narrative switching, between past, present, letter, journals, telegrams, and different characters.  It all got to be too much.  I was glad when things straightened out a little more, and there were less narrative devices and voices.

I think the story was an excellent concept, and the writing was mostly solid.  I just think the execution of the book was a just a tiny bit clumsy.  I am all for historical accuracy, but I could have done without a lot of the historical telegrams and such that really played no part in the story.  Had the story focused more on the actual boat and all its passengers and crew, this would have been necessary.  However, since it was mostly just about Maggie, it did not make sense to include those things.  Again, just too many different narrative devices; it chopped up the flow of the text.

In general, however, I found the book interesting.  I think it will appeal to fans of historical fiction, particularly readers looking for a nice, sweet romance story.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Black Chalk, by Christopher J. Yates

A group of students at Oxford create a complicated game that forces them into uncomfortable situations.  6 students begin the game, only 5 survive it, and only 1 can win it.  As the game's intensity progresses, it takes a toll on the players' education, friendships, and in at least one instance, sanity.  Is there really any way to actually win this game?

This book had be hooked from the very beginning.  There was something incredibly original in this storyline.  I thought the plot was well thought out, terribly clever, and totally riveting.  We meet the players one by one, and while they are well developed, they do not surrender all their secrets immediately.  By the time I realized the tricky nature of the narrative, I was certain that this book was going to take me places I did not expect.  That is a quality I admire in a thriller, and this one delivered on all its promises.

The nature of the writing is luxurious and extravagant.  Yates knows how to turn a phrase in a way seldom seen in contemporary writing.  The writing is smart, without being pretentious.  In short, this book surpassed all my expectations in those most wonderful ways.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.