A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl

A Cloud in the Shape of a GirlA Cloud in the Shape of a Girl by Jean Thompson
on October 23rd 2018
Pages: 336
ISBN: 1501194364
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three-stars

“What if your life sneaked up behind you, tapped you on the shoulder, and said, Guess what, I’m already here.”

A Cloud in the shape of a girl follows the story of three women, Evelyn, Laura, and Grace. Three generations of women from one family and their lives, their loves, their choices and the men in their lives. Each woman has something she is dealing with ranging from marital issues, infidelity, heartbreak, addiction, dysfunction with the family, secrets, longing and coming to terms with death.

“I have lived my life sandwiched between two angry women.”

Each of the women in this book are stuck in their lives. Stuck with the choices they have made, being too comfortable being uncomfortable. The book deals with many issues/themes – addiction, infidelity, pregnancy, illness, dying, and heartbreak to name a few. I found this to be a bleak book with very little happiness. I think one must be in the mood to read such a book. The writing is very good and some of the characters may be relate-able. Evelyn gave up her career aspirations for a family – for children that she struggled to bond with. Laura is her daughter and she lives in an unhappy marriage with a husband who drinks way too much and a son who is in and out of rehab. Grace is Laura’s daughter and she keeps her family at arm’s length. She also makes poor choices in terms of who she lets in her life and the reader is left to wonder if Grace will in fact, break free from the cycle and find a way to live a satisfying life.

This book felt like a character study on sadness. It shows how patterns can be repeated, how not having a healthy relationship to use as a model, that children may grow up to repeat their parent’s patterns and about relationships. This book shows how choices, no matter how big or small can affect and change one’s life. There is a lot to think about in this book, which would make this book a good book club choice.

Very well written somber story about three women in one family.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.

three-stars

Lost in the Beehive

Lost in the BeehiveLost in the Beehive by Michele Young-Stone
on April 10th 2018
Pages: 320
ISBN: 1451657641
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five-stars

This book was simply wonderful!

“For nearly her entire life, Gloria Ricci has been followed by bees.”

Gloria Ricci is caught in an intimate act with a young woman named Isabel at the beginning of the book. Believing that they are doing the right thing, Gloria’s parents admit her to the Belmont Institute. It’s a place with a pretty brochure but is extremely ugly on the inside. It is a place meant to “cure” teens who are attracted to members of the same sex. The teen years are usually when people begin to “find” themselves. It’s a time of change – puberty, sexual urges, self-esteem, self-worth and identity all come into play. It’s a time to learn who you are and to look toward the future. For the teens at the institute, it is a time where they are told they are “sick”, that there is something wrong with them that needs to be “fixed.” They have “therapy” sessions and are offered aversion therapy. It’s a horrific experience which is made better when Gloria meets Sheffield “Sheff” Schoeffler. They bond, and, in his presence, Gloria is finally free to be her true self. She and Sheff become best friends and make plans for a better life once they are released from Belmont.

Sheff and Gloria run away and form their own family unit where both love and accept the other. Unfortunately, their happiness does not last, and Gloria returns home and eventually meets Jacob, a man she will eventually marry…….

I don’t want to say too much more about the plot but that I had a hard time putting this book down. It was an emotional read. One can’t help but feel for both Sheff and Gloria. I wanted to cheer for them and cried with them and sadly watched as Gloria married a man and moved away from her parents.

This book is about friendship, love, loss. yearning, acceptance, being true to yourself, and being open to others. It is laced with Magical realism and beautiful passages. It also deals with difficult subjects such as abuse, suicide, non-acceptance, death, infidelity, and the impact of secrets.

The bees continue to buzz throughout the book and follow Gloria through her life making appearance at important times and when she needs them the most. As Gloria attempts to be true to herself, she finds that she can love and be loved. The ending is a bit predictable but seriously, who cares? I didn’t. I loved it.

Highly recommend everyone picks up this book to see what all the reviewers are buzzing about!

five-stars

The Favorite Sister

The Favorite SisterThe Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll
Published by Simon & Schuster on May 15th 2018
Pages: 384
ISBN: 1501153196
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two-stars

It is safe to say that this was not my favorite book. The premise of this book sounded very interesting and I read a lot of positive reviews, so I thought this book must be better than Luckiest Girl Alive, also by this Author. I dnf LGA. I just could not get into that book but decided to throw caution to the wind and attempt to read this Author’s work again due to the high reviews of The Favorite sister.

Well, we all can’t like the same book. What works for some might not work for others. Was it me or was it the book? It was not a good fit either way. I really enjoy this genre of book, but I find that I am just not into Knoll’s writing style.

The premise of this book sounded so intriguing, 5 successful women on a reality show called Gold Diggers. The show is set in New York City and ends in murder. The premise sounded as if this book would be high drama full of secrets, lies betrayal, jealously, and backstabbing with some mystery thrown in. My type of book – except it wasn’t. I just could not get into this book. It was a real struggle for me.

The ending did pick up for me and that is why I gave it 2 stars. I almost did not finish this book and decided to stick it out.

I received an ARC of this book from Simon and Schuster and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

two-stars

School for Psychics

School for PsychicsSchool for Psychics (School for Psychics, #1) by K.C. Archer
on April 3rd 2018
Pages: 368
ISBN: 150115933X
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two-half-stars

The book begins as Teddy Cannon is gambling in Vegas. She is in disguise as she has been banned from most casinos. She doesn’t count cards or cheat, but she does have an ability to “read” people. She knows what they are going to do and can make her moves accordingly. She owes a lot of money and needs to make it back so that she can pay off her debts and start over.

What Teddy sees as an “ability” is proof that she is “psychic”. She is approached at the casino and offered a chance to work on her skills and to learn more about her abilities. Where? At a school for psychics of course. There she meets others with various abilities and they all must pass the test to study at the school.

Teddy seems to digress a little in age for me. At the beginning of the book she comes off as older and more mature. Yes, she is playing a role at the casino, but still her thoughts and mannerisms make her appear older. When she gets to the school, she suddenly feels like a teenager who can’t decide what “hot” guy she wants to be with or what she is going to do.

She, and the other students do get to learn new skills and perfect the one skills they already possess to help their government. Plus, Teddy finds out some secrets about her past which also add to the intrigue and story-line. Also, this book has mystery, romance, the element of who can I trust, secrets, etc. Sounds like an interesting premise but it fell flat for me. Was this the case of “it’s not you – it’s me” I just had a hard time getting into this book. I think there are parts of this book that many will like but this just wasn’t really my cup of tea.

I received a copy of this book from Simon & Schuster and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

two-half-stars

The Rules of Magic

The Rules of MagicThe Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
Published by Simon & Schuster on October 10th 2017
Pages: 384
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four-stars

I had a hard time deciding between and 3.5 and a 4 so I rounded up to a 4.

The Rules Of Magic is a prequel to Practical Magic. I am most likely the rare reviewer who has not read practical magic (but I did see the movie). Since I have not read Practical Magic, The Rules of Magic worked very well as a stand alone novel for me.

The Owens family are a long line of witches. Their origins date back to 1620 when a descendant was charged for being a witch when she fell in love with the wrong man. One fateful summer, Susanna Owens has decided to send her three children to live with their Aunt Isabelle in Massachusetts. An Aunt they have never met but are excited to go and visit. Susanna and her husband have strict rules for their precocious children in their home: no red shoes, no black clothing, no books on magic, no cats, no crows, etc. Their children are all very different yet have one thing in common: magic. From the day he was born, Vincent has been a charmer. A hospital nurse tried to kidnap him shortly after his birth, Fanny who is fair with dark red hair, and Jett, who is shy and can read people’s thoughts.

When they arrive at their Aunt Isabelle’s home they learn that the rules no longer apply to them. They are permitted to be themselves. They wear what they want and do as they please. They learn some family secrets and to embrace their charms. At the same time they learn that there is a family curse. When they return to live with their parents, they each in their own way attempt to rid themselves of the curse only to learn that doing so is not that easy.

They find love, they turn their back on love, they get into interesting situations. They also experience loss, sadness, death and heartbreak. They travel, they experience life but they also experience family ties, devotion, closeness, and a world of magic. Plus, the reader gets to learn more about Maria Owens, the witch who long ago was charged with being a witch and more about the family curse.

Hoffman creates quirky characters which are both complex and compelling. The magic of her book is in their relationships and their family ties.

As I mentioned, I have not read Practical Magic but I intend to do so in the near future.

I received a copy of this book from Simon & Schuster and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

four-stars

All the Missing Girls

All the Missing GirlsAll the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
Published by Simon & Schuster on June 28th 2016
Pages: 384
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three-half-stars

One really needs to pay attention while reading this book. This book is told in reverse chronological order ranging from day 15 to day 1. This is a very unique way of telling the story and it took some time for me to get used to this technique. Initially I did not care for the storytelling told in reverse. It took some time for me to adjust to this way of telling a story.

Nicolette (Nic) returns to her rural hometown after being gone for 10 years. She has returned to help her brother care for their ailing father and to help sell the family home and tie up loose ends. Ten years earlier her best friend, Corinne disappeared without a trace. At the time Nic, her brother Daniel, her boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson were considered suspects. Tyler’s current girlfriend Annaleise provided them with an alibi at the time.

Then Annaleise goes missing. Nic begins to look at the past and tries to tie it together with the present day. The story has mystery, family secrets, relationship issues, and some twists and turns along the way.

Overall, I thought this book was good. It was one that I initially gave less stars to, but then I found myself sitting and thinking about it. Then I realized I enjoyed the book more than I thought I would. I think I was initially thrown by the reverse storytelling. I don’t think this technique is for everyone. Some may even find it to be confusing.

I found this book to be good not great. I feel this book is getting a lot of hype and although, the writing is good, I found it difficult to connect to any of the characters. This book felt like a made for tv movie to me. One I had to keep watching to see how it ended but in the end, I really didn’t care.

A plus for some readers is that there is nothing graphic or gory in this book. It is a psychological mystery but not a graphic one. I like a little grit with my mystery so I found the book to be lacking in this department. Life is not so cut and dry, I don’t feel murder and sex should be either.

three-half-stars

Lily and the Octopus

Lily and the OctopusLily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley
Published by Simon & Schuster on June 7th 2016
Pages: 320
ISBN: 1501126229
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four-stars

This book. This beautifully engaging, at times funny, at times sad book. READ IT. READ IT NOW..but buy tissues first.

Ted is chosen by Lily when he goes to a dog breeder. She is the runt that comes up to him. She is the dog that he has had for 12 years. A dog that he has funny, sweet and beautiful conversations with. Seriously, who hasn’t had a pet and had a conversation with it? Animals are great listeners. They don’t judge, they see us at our best and worst and love us anyway.

Ted is still recovering from the end of a romantic relationship when he notices an “octopus” on the top of Lily’s head. WTF you say? You need to read the book. This is no ordinary Octopus. This is an evil one. Hellbent on taking over. Ted sees this as a battle he must win in order to save Lily.

During the course of Ted (and Lily’s) battle with the Octopus, we see Ted grow some. He has to make choices. He has to be strong. He has to do right by his beloved Lily. She is the one constant in his life. She cheers him up, she makes him happy and loves him as he loves her.

The battle with the Octopus gets a little strange (on the boat) but overall, this is a story about love, acceptance, family (you and your pet can be a family!), letting go, and starting over. Pets teach us about life. The good, the bad, the ugly, the pain, the happiness, the loss.

I sat and read this in one sitting. It’s that easy to do. Don’t read it in public as I did. Crying in front of strangers is not my favorite thing to do…but reading is one of them. I enjoyed reading this book. I think most will enjoy reading it as well.

four-stars

Faithful

FaithfulFaithful by Alice Hoffman
Published by Simon & Schuster on November 1st 2016
Pages: 272
ISBN: 1476799202
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three-half-stars

Received from the publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Save Something
Say Something
Want Something

These are tidbits of advice that Shelby receives from her “Angel” after surviving a car crash that resulted in her friend being in a Coma. Shelby is pulled out of the wreckage by her Angel, but suffers from survivors grief and depression. She cannot find the way to forgive her self for the accident that injured her friend so badly. She can’t accept that she got to walk away while her friend will never walk again. Forgiveness is not something she is willing to do for herself. She is not to blame for the accident but she finds that she cannot move on with her life. She is admitted to a psychiatric hospital, where she is repeatedly sexually assaulted, and then punishes herself for not being injured by shaving her head, self medicating with marijuana, and watching television in her parents basement most of the day. Eventually her relationship with Ben, her “dealer”, becomes romantic and they both move together to NYC in attempts to better their lives. He goes to school to become a pharmacist and she gets a job in a pet store.

She makes a new friend at the pet store which is a big step for her. Shelby continues to grow as she saves animals and cares for her friend’s children in her absence. Along the way, we witness Shelby make both good and bad decisions. Throughout her ups and downs she continues to get words of advice from her angel. She tends to take the advice and finds that by doings so she is helping herself to grow and move on. Eventually she finds her calling and makes progress toward her goals. She even gets to learn the identity of the person leaving her the notes. Ssh, I’m not telling.

This book initially read like a YA book for me. I really liked the characters of Ben and Shelby’s Mom. I loved how her Mom was always supportive and always there for her even when Shelby could not see that.

This is not vintage Hoffman. At times I longed for vintage Hoffman. I enjoyed this book but not as much as some of her other works. Perhaps she was reaching for a younger audience here. Like I mentioned earlier, the beginning felt like a YA book to me. This book does has symbolism as do her other books. This book is big on forgiveness, acceptance, love, betrayal, loss, infidelity, moving on, and simply living.

I think fans of Hoffman (as well as others) will enjoy this book. I found it to be a fast easy read.

three-half-stars

The Rosie Project

The Rosie ProjectThe Rosie Project (Don Tillman, #1) by Graeme Simsion
Published by Simon & Schuster on October 1st 2013
Pages: 295
ISBN: 1476729085
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four-half-stars

This was a FANTASTIC book!!! Light, fun, funny, heart warming, quirky, delightful and clever. What an amazing first book! Don Tillman is a Geneticist at Melbourne University. He is a good looking guy who can never get a second date – if he gets a date at all. He has never fit in, is socially awkward and possibly has Asperger Syndrome/Mild Autism. He begins a quest to find a wife. Thus begins the Wife Project. He seeks in a wife someone who does not smoke, arrives on time, does not drink to excess, can calculate her BMI accurately and is scientifically a “fit” for him. In enters Rosie, a smoking vegetarian who is a barmaid by night, Ph.D. student by day. She is on a quest to find her biological father – The Father Project. They begin a journey for the truth. This is where the fun really begins. This book reads like a romantic comedy. I loved how he guessed the BMI of almost everyone with whom he came into contact.I highly recommend this book.

four-half-stars

1776

17761776 by David McCullough
Published by Simon & Schuster on July 4th 2006
Pages: 386
ISBN: 0743226720
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five-stars

How did a group of farmers beat the English Empire? Through blood, sweat and tears. Noted American Historian, David McCullough, beautifully tells the story of the birth of the United States of America. He takes just one year in the American Revolution to tell how both sides of the war felt and thought. He shows how King George III thought of the Colonists as petulant children who did not have any legitimate complaints. He showed how George Washington was worried about the chance of Victory for the Colonists despite how optimistic he appeared in public. Both larger than live leaders, on either sides of the Atlantic, are shown as human. One thought he would easily win (King George III) and one had doubts (George Washington) as he held the fate of the Colonies in his hands. There is a lot of historical information given as one would expect from such a book. Battles I had never heard of were discussed in detail. McCullough excels in doing his research and writing about history in such a riveting manner. The harsh elements, spread of disease, the battles, lack of supplies, and the horrors of battle are vivid and powerful. David McCullough is a gifted writer who does not disappoint. Highly recommend.

five-stars