December 23, 2016

The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner ~ #BookReview

Title: The Memory of Things
Author: Gae Polisner
Published: September 6, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Source: Publisher via Netgalley

Purchase: Amazon | B&N

Add to Goodreads,13653812


The powerful story of two teenagers finding friendship, comfort, and first love in the days following 9/11 as their fractured city tries to put itself back together.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, sixteen-year-old Kyle Donohue watches the first twin tower come down from the window of Stuyvesant High School. Moments later, terrified and fleeing home to safety across the Brooklyn Bridge, he stumbles across a girl perched in the shadows. She is covered in ash and wearing a pair of costume wings. With his mother and sister in California and unable to reach his father, a New York City detective likely on his way to the disaster, Kyle makes the split-second decision to bring the girl home. 

What follows is their story, told in alternating points of view, as Kyle tries to unravel the mystery of the girl so he can return her to her family. But what if the girl has forgotten everything, even her own name? And what if the more Kyle gets to know her, the less he wants her to go home? 

The Memory of Things tells a stunning story of friendship and first love and of carrying on with our day-to-day living in the midst of world-changing tragedy and unforgettable pain—it tells a story of hope.

The Memory of Things was so difficult to rate because I wanted to love it more than I did; however, a couple aspects of the story just didn't work for me. I should have been able to whip through this book in a couple of sittings, but a lack of time prevented me from accomplishing that. 

The Memory of Things presented me with a different kind of storytelling - it's told in alternating POVs between the two main characters, Kyle and the mystery girl. What's really interesting is that Kyle's POV is straight forward, but the girl's POV is told in a lyrical, almost poetic manner which I found that I liked. It added to the mystery and uncertainty of who she is and why she was at the place Kyle found her.

Due to the sensitive subject matter, I felt compelled to rate this at least 4 stars, but I ended up feeling I couldn't do that because it wouldn't be an honest representation of how I feel about the book. As I mentioned earlier, there were things about the story I wish had been different.

On September 11, Kyle is making his way home after the first tower goes down. He comes across an ash-covered girl wearing angel wings. She seems to have amnesia, and Kyle can't just leave her there by herself, so he has her go home with him. 

Kyle's uncle, who is disabled, lives with him and his family, and I liked the inclusion of a diverse character who isn't found in many books. Kyle's uncle wasn't disabled just for the sake of including diversity into the story - he had an important role to play in the story. I loved Kyle's relationship with him and how much Kyle looks up to him.  

Kyle is an awesome kid who somehow keeps it together throughout the terrifying events of a day that will live in the world's memory forever. He is strong and mature for his age; however I took off one star because I felt there was a lack of depth and emotion overall. There needed to be more. I get that he wasn't sure how to help the girl he found, but I was hoping for more about how these characters were affected by the events of that day.  

I also took off a star because the ending felt a little too pat for me. I think it should have had an open ending. I do give major props to Polisner for handling a national tragedy with the sensitivity and care that she did. I still recommend The Memory of Things because you might not be as picky as I was about the way the amount of emotion in the story and the way it ended. 


How Nick & Holly Wrecked...SAVED Christmas by Carla Rossi ~ #BookReview

Title: How Nick & Holly Wrecked Saved Christmas 
Author: Carla Rossi
Published: November 10, 2013
Source: Purchased myself

Purchase: Amazon | B&N


Holly Moreau and Nick Zernigan aren’t friends at school – or anywhere else. Especially since Holly blames Nick for her broken nose after a freak accident. But when they find themselves unexpectedly dropped with older relatives at a retirement complex over Christmas break, they must make peace. They have to. It’s the only way to survive karaoke night and a senior citizen Christmas dance.

Holly thinks Nick is a careless loser. Nick thinks Holly is a too-serious choir nerd. Can one party and a crime spree change their minds about each other? And can Nick and Holly remember the miracle of Christmas and find the answers to some of their hidden questions?

How Nick & Holly Wrecked Saved Christmas is a super sweet and humorous read. I loved it so much I've read it twice the last two years. It's a quick read at around 80 pages but not too quick although I would love to hang out with Nick and Holly some more.  

Holly has to stay with her "granny" for Christmas, and a guy she goes to school with has to stay with his aunt at the same building. At first she's annoyed by his presence because she blames him for her broken nose, but she gradually warms up to him. They begin developing a connection, and I liked their interactions, even the times Holly was snarky to Nick.

I love Holly's granny! She's one of my favorite characters of all time. I want her to adopt me. She's so cute and loves life and is aging gracefully. #goals

How Nick & Holly Wrecked Saved Christmas is a story that has stayed with me. I can remember most of it even though I haven't read it since last Christmas. I plan on reading it again for this Christmas, and I'm sure I'll love it as much as the first time I read it.

December 22, 2016

Operation White Christmas by Nicki Edwards ~ #BookReview

Title: Operation White Christmas
Series: Escape to the Country #2.5
Author: Nicki Edwards
Pages: 90 (printed)
Publisher: Pan Macmillan AU
Publication Date: 12/17/15
Source: Publisher via Netgalley 
Purchase: Amazon | B&N 


Hollie Douglas has dreamed of a White Christmas ever since she was a child, but her dream implodes when her fiance breaks her heart two months before their big day. Convinced by her best friend to go ahead with her planned honeymoon anyway, Hollie doesn't expect to find herself stuck in a snowstorm in rural Canada two days before Christmas.

Jim Bell has been dreading another Christmas without his wife. When one of his orphaned animals goes missing in the middle of a snowstorm, he didn't expect he'd be rescuing a stranded Australian tourist as well. He quickly realizes Hollie is carrying as much emotional baggage as him, and when she accepts his offer to seek shelter at his farm, he wonders if he's doing the right thing. 

As Jim helps Hollie fulfill her White Christmas dreams, the winter wonderland and spirit of Christmas work their healing magic on both of them. 

A sweet Christmas romance in the tradition of Melissa McClone and Alissa Callen.  

I LOVED Operation White Christmas so much at the beginning, but then somehow it lost its momentum and the dialogue turned cringe-worthy. 

While I realized from the get go that this was a short read at around 90 pages, I still felt like Hollie and Jim got together way too fast. It was unbelievable and unrealistic. Operation White Christmas really should have been expanded to give the characters more depth and the story more time to develop, then I think it would have been a better read.

There were still sweet moments here and there, and if you're willing to suspend your disbelief, you can enjoy this with a cozy blanket and mug of hot chocolate on a snowy day.

The Sugar Men by Ray Kingfisher ~ #BookReview

Title: The Sugar Men
Author: Ray Kingfisher
Published: August 9, 2016
First Published: September 28, 2013
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Source: ARC from the publisher via NetGalley,13423910


Sixty-four years ago, Susannah Morgan managed to flee the horrors of the Holocaust. But the memories of that childhood ordeal have proven impossible to sweep away.

For most of her new life spent settled in sleepy North Carolina, the flashbacks have been a lonely obsession—one she has hidden from her family, and about which her heart is torn. Because for all the pain and the cruelty of those terrible years, she harbours sweet memories too, of unexpected friends who risked their own lives in order to save hers. As Susannah’s time on earth draws to a close, her innermost thoughts of those long-gone days become questions—ones that demand answers.

Against the wishes of her children, Susannah returns to Germany and the scene of unspeakable crimes. There she will come face to face with the Holocaust’s terrible, wretched legacy, and will finally make peace with the ghosts of her past.

Revised edition: This edition of The Sugar Men includes editorial revisions.

As I recently wrote in a review for another book in which a fictional story was set during a real-life tragedy (in that case, 9/11), it's tricky writing fiction with a horrific real-life event as the main event. There's a balance to be struck between keeping the facts of what really happened and the story you're trying to tell.

I wanted to really love The Sugar Men but found I wasn't fully invested in it. While the beginning hooked me right away, I found parts of the story implausible and wasn't able to connect with the characters very well. The flashbacks were the most engaging parts of the novel, and I think the story would have fared better had the present been contained to the beginning and ending of the novel.  

What I found most implausible was Susannah's journey back to Germany. With her illness, I don't think she would have been able to travel alone. I couldn't understand why she insisted on going alone. Why didn't she ask at least one of her kids to go with her? I also was surprised at how little her kids knew about her past. I can understand how she'd want to bury her past, but how do you keep all of that pain and anguish bottled up from people you love? I'd imagine it would have eventually spilled out long before it did.

As I mentioned earlier, I had a difficult time connecting with Susannah and her kids, hence the 3 stars. Since her kids didn't know their mother as well as they thought, I felt as a reader I didn't, either. And her kids -- the reader learns very little about them. They were just kind of there almost as props. 

On the plus side, the author researched the Holocaust thoroughly. I wanted more of Susannah's story when she was a kid, and I felt disappointed when the story swung back to the present. The time Susannah spent in a  concentration camp was described in such vivid horrific detail that it didn't feel like fiction; however, the rest of the story wasn't nearly as engaging. The flashbacks were what I wanted to read about the most.

We hear so much about Auschwitz that it's easy to forget there were other camps with their own atrocities. The author did well with setting the story in a different concentration camp.  

Overall, I'd still recommend The Sugar Men to anyone who's interested in learning more about the Holocaust because while Susannah is a fictional character, the author was able to put a face to this real-life tragedy.  


September 26, 2016

The Woman in the Mirror by Cathryn Grant ~ #BookReview

September 26, 2016

Title: The Girl in the Mirror
Author: Cathryn Grant
Published: June 30, 2016
Publisher: D2C Perspectives
Source: Publisher via Netgalley


Noreen Palmer describes herself as sweet and responsible, but she can’t stop lying — about why she destroyed the mirror, about her broken love affair, about the things that happened in her bungalow perched on a cliff above the ocean.

When Alexandra Mallory and Jared Brady rent rooms in her precariously situated home, the danger of falling over the cliff is the least of their fears.

Alex is drawn to both Jared and a strange man lurking around the bungalow, but determined to steer a wide path around her unstable landlord. Soon, Noreen’s escalating threats force Alex to uncover Noreen’s secrets and right a terrible wrong.

Alexandra Mallory isn’t like other women — she gets rid of people who make the world a dangerous place.

I devoured The Woman in the Mirror! I hated having to put it down when I was forced to do something like sleep, lol. These characters were a train wreck I couldn't look away from, and I was so anxious to see what they would do next that I flew through the pages. The dynamic between them was so tense, I felt it could snap at any moment, and while none of the characters have redeeming qualities, they're definitely interesting to read about. 

At first glance, Alexandra (Alex) seems like a typical, normal young woman, but I quickly recognized her for what she truly is - a sociopath. As awful as she is, she does pull it off well, I've gotta give her that. This woman's thought processes are scarily skewed. She does a weird personality-mirroring thing that isn't obvious right away but puts her victims at ease to where they don't question her true motives. It even took me a little bit to catch on to it

As much as I didn't like Alex, I was fascinated by her. The way she hurt others to benefit herself boggled my mind. I have no idea how she sleeps at night. I also have no idea why so many men fell all over themselves to have a chance to be with her. What's so great about her? Is her aloofness a turn-on because she isn't emotionally needy? Alex's past is revealed slowly throughout the novel, which I liked because knowing her history is essential to understanding who she is in the present and how she got to where she is. It was also annoying how full of herself she is and how she kept describing herself as so gorgeous and so in shape and blah blah blah. Get over yourself, girl! 

Then there's Noreen, the girl who placed the ad looking for roommates. Unlike Alex, I could see right away that she has so many issues it isn't even funny. I doubt I would have stayed after the crazy stunts she pulled, but then again, Alex is also unhinged, just on a different level. Instead of advertising for two roommates, Noreen should have been honest and asked for the instant boyfriend and best friend package she actually wanted, people who would be completely okay with the fact that she's unstable and clingy. I truly believe Alex still would have responded to that kind of in-your-face-honest ad.

I felt bad for Jared at first, knowing he had no idea what kind of women he was shacking up with, but then he fell for Alex the instant he saw her and my sympathy for him went out the window. He's supposed to be practicing Buddhism and freeing himself of earthly ties, yet he wanted to tie himself down to Alex. He was way too smug about his meditation and yoga practices not to mention the fact he gave up a high paying job for a less complicated, less materialistic life. Dude, give up your flashy car and expensive clothes, then come talk to me. 

I did think that Noreen's behavior toward him was unacceptable. She wouldn't take no for an answer and insisted on throwing herself at him every chance she got. She's guilty of sexually harassing him! While not as aggressive as Noreen, Jared did become obsessed with Alex, and I couldn't understand why. I suppose he didn't want to face facts.     

I know it sounds like I didn't enjoy this novel, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Part of The Woman in the Mirror's appeal for me was how awful these characters were. It was entertaining and interesting, especially from a psychological perspective, to dissect their faults and behavior, plus wonder what awful thing they'd do next. 

This is an exceptionally well written novel but may not be for everyone, depending on whether you're able to read about characters you don't like. If you're okay with characters who aren't redeemable, then you'll likely enjoy The Woman in the Mirror. 

According to Goodreads, this appears to be the first book in a series. Is there more story to tell about Alexandra? She isn't someone you root for, not really, so I'm wondering what the next book will be like if there is one. I do think there's more story about her that can be told, and I'd definitely read it. 


August 1, 2016

One Last Song by S.K. Falls ~ #Review

One Last Song
by S.K. Falls
January 13th 2015
New Adult Contemporary Romance

Complimentary copy for review through AToMR Promotions via Netgalley - Thank You! 


I was seven when I swallowed my first needle.
My mom freaked out and rushed me to the emergency room.
She stayed by my side all night.
I never wanted it to end.

When you spend your whole life feeling invisible - when your parents care more about deals and deadlines than they do about you - you find ways of making people take notice. Little things at first. Then bigger. It's scary how fast it grows. Then one day something happens that makes you want to stop. To get better. To be better. And for the first time, you understand what it's like to feel whole, happy...loved. For the first time, you love someone back. 

For me, that someone was Drew.   

One Last Song is a dark romance where a girl named Saylor pretends to be sick and falls in love with a guy who really is ill. Drew assumed she was there for a support group, but in actuality she was volunteering at the hospital. The problem is he doesn't know she's pretending, and she doesn't want to lose him so she keeps lying to him. 

She's been diagnosed with Munchhausen syndrome and borderline personality disorder. People with Munchhausen feign illness because they want attention and sympathy. From what I know about this syndrome (I have a B.A. in Psychology), Falls (the author, who has a degree in Psych, too) hits it on the mark with Saylor's symptoms. Saylor is written to be very knowledgeable about medical procedures and can cause herself to get sick enough to need long-term treatment at times. 

The role of patient is familiar and comforting to Saylor and fills a psychological need that she has, which is that her parents are emotionally unavailable to her. She has an awful relationship with her mom and dad - they both ignore her and go to painful lengths to do it. You wouldn't believe how much they don't pay attention to what she's doing, and they never show her love. I don't know how I would handle that situation if I were her. It's not something I want to think about.

I felt highly uncomfortable at times while reading One Last Song because I knew it was only a matter of time before her secret would come out. She kept putting it off, and I was dying inside a little bit more each time she had the opportunity to spill. I wanted to ask her why didn't she just tell the group, especially Drew, she wasn't there for the support group? But the disease had taken hold of her, and she felt that her behavior was all that was keeping her together. 

Falls has done the impossible and made me empathize and care about this girl. One Last Song takes a look at far more than this predicament this girl is in. This takes a look at life and death, and she sees that what she's been doing is child's play compared to what these teens actually facing death are looking at. 

About the Author

S.K. Falls likes to believe a degree in psychology qualifies her to emotionally torture her characters in an authentic fashion. Her books have won the gold medal in the 2014 IPPY awards, been featured on USA Today's book blog, and regularly appear on Amazon's various bestselling lists. When she isn't writing her twisted love stories, she can be found gallivanting around Charleston, SC with her family.