Friday, March 15, 2013

Silver Orphan - A social commentary on a heartbreaking fact of life that all to many choose to ignore

Silver OrphanSilver Orphan by Martine Lacombe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a galley copy of this novel for my review.

Simply put, this book packs a punch. Enough so that it is 1:00am on a weeknight and instead of sleeping as I should be, I am sitting in front of the computer because I'm pretty sure I will not be able to sleep until I write something down.

With each passing year, more Americans are reaching their golden years, and many of them without friends or family. Whether this is due to geographic separation, a lack of family members who care, or a lack of family members at all, the result is the same - these seniors who have often worked hard and cared even harder for their families throughout their lives are now alone. This is a heartbreaking subject, and one that Martine Lacombe tackles with grace.

Part story of unlikely friendship and changing self awareness, part history lesson and social commentary, this novel takes us rhythmically through 3 time periods - the younger life of first generation Italian-American Frank Moretti, the time of developing friendship between him and raging narcissist Brooke Blake, and the present day timeline of Brooke searching for the family of her lost friend following his death. The vastly different viewpoints and expectations of themselves, each other and the world were a central piece to this novel, and these 3 alternating time periods allowed the authors points to come through by comparison rather than coming across as preachy or overly analytical. This novel is well written, thoughtful and poignant.

There are only 2 pieces that held this novel back from 5* for me. (view spoiler)[ First, I can't bring myself to fully believe that Brooke truly changed. Yes, we see her reaching out and given up her precious time to others in the end, but that still does not cancel out the fact that she was utterly irritated at the thought of having to deal with Frank's remains rather than being saddened by his passing, despite showing him such love and care so soon before his death. Second, I am sad to not know more of Sofia's story, or that of Frank's son and granddaughter after Brooke discovers his family. While this piece of the puzzle does serve excellent commentary in terms of apathetic family members, I do so wish we had learned more of the story. (hide spoiler)]

Overall though, an excellent and worthy read, and I applaud Martine Lacombe for tackling this equally heartwarming and heartbreaking story!

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Beautiful Creatures - Not quite a beautiful novel, but at least it's pretty

Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles, #1)Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Through the much less used perspective of a teenage boy, Beautiful Creatures takes you to a small South Carolina town with the usual mix of suspects - southern belles, holier than thous, intelligent and open minded academics, ecentrics - but also an "underworld" that most people will never know exists. When Ethan meets Lena, he only knows that he is drawn to her for some unknown reason, but has no idea that the new girl in town will not only show him this underworld, but also alter his future and view of his own world in one basic fell swoop.

While an overall engaging and easy read, there are definitely aspects that keep it from being great. First, it is a little slow in places - I found myself doing quite a bit more skimming than I probably should have (and hopefully didn't miss anything good), basically trying to get to said good stuff. Second, I'm not entirely sure I bought Ethan's perspective, as there were a few too many times that I found myself wondering if a 16 year old boy would actually do or say that. However, this one isn't overtly obnoxious because I can see how some of the situations might be influenced by the paranormal elements thus altering how he would have normally behaved.

Not quite a great book, but definitely good enough to catch my attention to continue the series at some point.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Between Shades of Gray - A gut wrenching piece of history that I'd bet most of you didn't even know about

Between Shades of GrayBetween Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Put most simply, a wonderful and moving book!

This novel follows a Lithuanian family, through the eyes of 15 year old Lina, who were deported to Siberia during WWII. First, this is a part of WWII that I must honestly admit I knew nothing about. And I literally mean NOTHING. All of my education regarding the treatment of different groups has revolved around the Holocaust and the interment of Japanese-Americans, but I was completely in the dark regarding the injustices Stalin and the USSR inflicted upon so many from the Baltic states.

This novel is clearly well researched, and that research was well portrayed in a story that was heartwarming and engaging while still be honest about the horrible experience people like Lina's family would have endured. I was also very surprised to learn, after finishing it, that this was a YA novel - I honestly would not have guessed it, and was even more impressed after learning this. Despite many graphic and gruesome situations and mature writing, it was also written in such a way that I think it would definitely reach a younger audience, without making adult readers feel like they had to dumb down their thought processes to appreciate it. Truly reaching both audiences can be difficult, and it was done so well here.

A landmark of a great historical fiction novel for me is whether I want to learn more about the subject after reading it, and this one definitely made the grade there!

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Friday, March 1, 2013

Fifty Shades Darker - Mommy has grown up into an actual plot a bit this time

Fifty Shades Darker (Fifty Shades, #2) Fifty Shades Darker (Fifty Shades, #2) by E.L. James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Writing still mediocre, bordering on outright terrible? Definitely. However, this second installment was also definitely better than the first and I'm glad I kept going. In part #2, there is actually some semblance of the plot that I wanted more of in Fifty Shades of Grey, so much more so that I wish more of what we learned in the second book had been in the first book. But, fewer books in the series would have of course been fewer total books sold, so apparently dollar signs won out over logical separation of the books on this one.

On another note, the narrator seems to have gotten at least a tiny bit of a hint on how utterly obnoxious her rendition of the first book was, because Ana's voice was much better than the ditzy airhead tone that came across in the first book.

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