Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday Fun

I've been wanting to try some new stuff here on Girls Just Reading, so here's the first thing: Help me pick at one of my reads for next week. We will see the response and determine if this is something we do 2x a month or so.

What Should Julie Read Next?

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Julie's Review: Where The Light Falls


Author: Allison Pataki, Owen Pataki
Series: None
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Publisher: The Dial Press
Pages: 384
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A wonderful novel about the French Revolution
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Summary: Three years after the storming of the Bastille, the streets of Paris are roiling with revolution. The citizens of France are enlivened by the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity. The monarchy of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette has been dismantled—with the help of the guillotine—and a new nation is rising in its place. Jean-Luc, an idealistic young lawyer, moves his wife and their infant son from a comfortable life in Marseille to Paris, in the hopes of joining the cause. André, the son of a denounced nobleman, has evaded execution by joining the new French army. Sophie, a young aristocratic widow, embarks on her own fight for independence against her powerful, vindictive uncle. As chaos threatens to undo the progress of the Revolution and the demand for justice breeds instability and paranoia, the lives of these compatriots become inextricably linked. Jean-Luc, André, and Sophie find themselves in a world where survival seems increasingly less likely—for themselves and, indeed, for the nation. Featuring cameos from legendary figures such as Robespierre, Louis XVI, and Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, Where the Light Falls is an epic and engrossing novel, moving from the streets and courtrooms of Paris to Napoleon’s epic march across the burning sands of Egypt. With vivid detail and imagery, the Patakis capture the hearts and minds of the citizens of France fighting for truth above all, and for their belief in a cause greater than themselves. ~amazon.com

Review: Where the Light Falls takes you on a ride through the dirty, backroom of the French Revolution. While people screamed for revolution and overthrew the crown to get it, you have to wonder who was truly benefiting from it? Were the people of France better off for it? Certainly not right away as there was even turmoil within the ranks of the leadership of it as they turned on each other. Ms. and Mr. Pataki introduce characters that will stay with me long after I have finished the novel. Each of them, Jean-Luc, Sophie and Andre are fighting their own personal revolutions.

Jean-Luc came to Paris with his wife and young son to create a better life for them and to serve the Revolution. He has great potential but is currently cataloging the belongings of nobility to give back to the people. Through his diligent work he is introduced to some of the most powerful men in France and given the opportunity to join their ranks. Something about that meeting turns him off and he instead goes up against them. I admired Jean-Luc, he took the tougher path and stuck by his beliefs in the fact that all people deserved Justice, even if the forces were against you. Believe me, he made some powerful enemies but never once did he back down. He believed that what he was doing was right.

Andre Valiere is a Captain in the French Army serving his country valiantly at Valmy where his troops helped to defeat the Prussians. Although for some it doesn't matter because he's of noble blood. Andre spends a great many years in love with Sophie without being able to truly be with her due to being gone and then her Uncle keeping them apart. He even has her thrown in jail to keep them apart.

What I loved about these 3 is that they never gave up, they persisted even when things looked bleak. What it also showed me is that sometimes the people who lead the revolution are no better than the people who are in power. What are their motives? What do they hope to gain or what's in it for them? No one is every fully altruistic, even if they initially start out that way.

If you are looking for a novel that gives a behind the scenes look at the French Revolution, then look no further than Where the Light Falls.


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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Julie's Review: The Blackbird Season


Author: Kate Moretti
Series: None
Publication Date: September 26, 2017
Publisher: Atria
Pages: 352
Obtained: Friend
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction,Mystery
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: Small town life and how rumors + poor decisions = ruined lives
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Summary: Known for novels featuring “great pacing and true surprises” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) and “nerve-shattering suspense” (Heather Gudenkauf, New York Time bestselling author), New York Times bestselling author Kate Moretti’s latest is the story of a scandal-torn Pennsylvania town and the aftermath of a troubled girl gone missing. “Where did they come from? Why did they fall? The question would be asked a thousand times… Until, of course, more important question arose, at which time everyone promptly forgot that a thousand birds fell on the town of Mount Oanoke at all.” In a quiet Pennsylvania town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school baseball field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community. Beloved baseball coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alecia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the many reporters investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a wayward student, Lucia Hamm, in front of a sleazy motel. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming that she and Nate are engaged in an affair, throwing the town into an uproar…and leaving Alecia to wonder if her husband has a second life. And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only to have one suspect: Nate. Nate’s coworker and sole supporter, Bridget Harris, Lucia’s creative writing teacher, is determined to prove his innocence. She has Lucia’s class journal, and while some of the entries appear particularly damning to Nate’s case, others just don’t add up. Bridget knows the key to Nate’s exoneration and the truth of Lucia’s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and in the pages of that journal. ~amazon.com

Review: Blackbird Season is a novel where it's true intent comes out during the final pages of the novel. You are going in one direction the entire novel until you aren't and it all makes sense. It wasn't a ploy but a way of showing the reader how only knowing one part of a story skews our entire view.

I'm not entirely sure if there were many truly likable characters in the novel but they each played their part. While Nate was a solid teacher and coach, he inserted himself into the lives of his students where perhaps he shouldn't have with long-lasting consequences. He was more engaged with the lives of his student than he was with his son and wife. For someone looking in from the outside, it seemed like he was trying to run away from the hard job of raising a son with autism and at times I felt that he wanted to be a teen again. He enjoyed basking in the glory of his baseball players.

Alecia, Nate's wife, is the one who runs their son's life which includes multiple therapy sessions and working with him constantly throughout the day. So when Nate is late or not helping, she gets angry. She used to be social and she used to be fun but now she feels exhausted all the time. Gabe is her life and her focus, as it is for most moms, but should it be? Maybe Nate is feeling resentful because all of her attention is focused on Gabe. One thing I did notice is that even while Nate was under suspicion of having an affair and then of making Lucia go missing, not once did Ms. Moretti have Alecia blame herself. His actions are his responsibility not hers and it was refreshing.

While I want to say that I saw both sides of the coin on the subject matter, I was definitely more Team Alicia than Team Nate. The whole time I felt that Nate didn't understand that while a bold line wasn't crossed, a smaller line was definitely ran over. I never felt that he owned up to his part in this whole entire mess. While I appreciated that Bridget stood by him and really was the only one who believed him; Nate himself didn't do much to help plead his case. He actually looked and acted guilty most of the time.

I enjoyed how Ms. Moretti led you down one trail but then veered off into the woods but it wasn't like it was out of left field either. Once all is revealed you see how she laid the ground work for it.
I highly recommend  Blackbird Season for those who are fans of mysteries.


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Friday, October 6, 2017

Julie's Review: The Crows of Beara


Author: Julie Christine Johnson
Series: None
Publication Date: September 1, 2017
Publisher: Ashland Creek Press
Pages: 402
Obtained: Author
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A wonderful story of losing yourself and then finding yourself again
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Summary: When Annie Crowe travels from Seattle to a small Irish village to promote a new copper mine, her public relations career is hanging in the balance. Struggling to overcome her troubled past and a failing marriage, Annie is eager for a chance to rebuild her life. Yet when she arrives on the remote Beara Peninsula, Annie learns that the mine would encroach on the nesting ground of an endangered bird, the Red-billed Chough, and many in the community are fiercely protective of this wild place. Among them is Daniel Savage, a local artist battling demons of his own, who has been recruited to help block the mine. Despite their differences, Annie and Daniel find themselves drawn toward each other, and, inexplicably, they begin to hear the same voice--a strange, distant whisper of Gaelic, like sorrow blowing in the wind. Guided by ancient mythology and challenged by modern problems, Annie must confront the half-truths she has been sent to spread and the lies she has been telling herself. Most of all, she must open her heart to the healing power of this rugged land and its people. Beautifully crafted with environmental themes, a lyrical Irish setting, and a touch of magical realism, The Crows of Beara is a breathtaking novel of how the nature of place encompasses everything that we are. ~amazon.com  

Review: The Crows of Beara is about losing yourself, becoming some one you don't recognize, to gaining back the control in your life. Annie is at the end of her rope with her marriage and her job. Her life has been derailed for some time and this trip to Ireland for work is her way of trying to get back on track. Annie has been lost for so long that she's not sure where to start and how to start.

Her mission while in Ireland is to convince the locals that the jobs the mine would bring out weighs the cost to the environment around them. She partners with the CEO of the mine to outline what their agenda and strategy is going forward. Except there's something a bit unsettling about how James feels completely comfortable with her right from the beginning.

As she's hiking along the Beara Peninsula, she feels drawn to the land and to what it is trying to say to her. The longer she's there the more time she spends on it, the more she feels the pull of it. She knows this job could end her career but she's not so sure any more that its a bad thing.

Annie is a character that you cheer for, that you want her to find her way. You know she's going to stumble but can she recover from that bump in the road.  You want her to forgive herself for her past mistakes and move on from them. Self-loathing will get her no where.

What I love about Ms. Johnson's writing is that she adds a mystical bend to the plot that adds mystery and intrigue into it. In this case it's the legend of the Old Hag of Beara and the song that sings to both Annie and Danny. It is about how a place can heal you and help you find who you are meant to be. Home isn't always a place but a feeling and often the people you surround yourself with as well.

If you love books about finding yourself and how sometimes you need to have setbacks to put you on the right path, then pick up The Crows of Beara.


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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Julie's Review: The Other Girl


Author: Erica Spindler
Series: None
Publication Date: August 22, 2017
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 256
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Suspense, Crime
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A great crime/suspense novel that doesn't rely on the unreliable narrator
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Summary: Officer Miranda Rader of the Harmony, Louisiana PD is known for her honesty, integrity, and steady hand in a crisis―but that wasn’t always so. Miranda comes from the town of Jasper, a place about the size of a good spit on a hot day, and her side of the tracks was the wrong one. She’s worked hard to earn the respect of her coworkers and the community. When Miranda and her partner are called to investigate the murder of one of the town’s most beloved college professors, they’re unprepared for the brutality of the scene. This murder is unlike any they’ve ever investigated, and just when Miranda thinks she’s seen the worst of it, she finds a piece of evidence that chills her to the core: a faded newspaper clipping about that terrible night fifteen years ago. The night she’d buried, along with her past and the girl she’d been back then. Until now that grave had stayed sealed…except for those times, in the deepest part of the night, when the nightmares came: of a crime no one believed happened and the screams of the girl they believed didn’t exist. Then another man turns up dead, this one a retired cop. Not just any cop―the one who took her statement that night. Two murders, two very different men, two killings that on the surface had nothing in common―except Miranda. ~amazon.com  

Review: The Other Girl is story that spins how our past can come back to haunt us and how it can effect our present lives. We are told the story of a recent murder through Detective Miranda Rader and how she's been tapped to lead the investigation. Miranda is the top detective in the force but when she see the clipping from an article about a crime that happened years ago, she starts to make some stupid mistakes.

Miranda starts to question how the pieces of this murder fit into the traumatic events in her past. Why has she been pulled into this? What is she going to do about it? Before she can learn any more, she's pulled off the case. Which lends itself to even more suspicion? If she's a strong detective, why pull her off?

Ms. Spindler weaves a quick moving suspense novel that will have you quickly turning the pages. You root for Miranda (and her with Jake). You want her to figure out why this is all coming down on her 15 years later. What ties her to the victim? As a woman you want her to stuff it to the old boys network and prove that the victim, while yes was murdered, that maybe he wasn't the person he wanted people to believe.

Fans of a crime/suspense novel won't want to miss this one. I will be checking out some of her other suspense novels.


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Friday, September 22, 2017

Julie's Review: Best Day Ever


Author: Kaira Rouda
Series: None
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Publisher: Graydon House
Pages: 368
Obtained: GetRedPR
Genre:  Psychological Thriller
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: A fantastic novel in the domestic thriller genre
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Summary: Paul Strom has the perfect life: a glittering career as an advertising executive, a beautiful wife, two healthy boys and a big house in a wealthy suburb. And he’s the perfect husband: breadwinner, protector, provider. That’s why he’s planned a romantic weekend for his wife, Mia, at their lake house, just the two of them. And he’s promised today will be the best day ever. But as Paul and Mia drive out of the city and toward the countryside, a spike of tension begins to wedge itself between them and doubts start to arise. How much do they trust each other? And how perfect is their marriage, or any marriage, really? Forcing us to ask ourselves just how well we know those who are closest to us, Best Day Ever crackles with dark energy, spinning ever tighter toward its shocking conclusion. ~amazon.com  

Review:If you aren't keen on unreliable narrators, then you might want to skip Best Day Ever
BUT you'll be making a huge mistake. HUGE. Paul Strom is successful, he's got a great career, wife, kids, the whole American dream. He's is literally living the dream. As Paul begins to tell us the story of how this is going to be the "Best Day Ever" you start to understand that maybe he's not telling you everything you need to know. He's keeping his cards close to his chest. He's only going to tell us what he wants us to know and when.

We see his wife and his boys through his eyes. How perfect his boys are and how his wife is so beautiful but something is amiss. Something doesn't feel right very early in the novel with Paul. He's off. He doesn't seem to have a grip on reality. It's clear that while he might think that this will be the "Best Day Ever" it's for a very different reason than what his wife thinks.

As the book unravels, so does Paul. His shiny demeanor begins to show kinks and dents. He frankly, starts to lose his shit. Mia isn't as complacent as you first think she is. She's not as meek as the reader thinks or certainly as Paul thinks. You keep hoping that something is going to happen where Paul realizes he isn't so smart but he's a narcissistic psychopath, so really that's not going to happen.

At a certain point in the novel you will give up everything you are doing or need to do to finish the book and you will know when that happens.

I've read a lot of books in this domestic suspense recently and Ms. Rouda's entry in it is superb. It reminds me a lot of Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris but definitely not the same. If you are into this sub-genre of psychological thrillers then you should pick this one up post haste.



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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Julie's Review: Caroline: Little House, Revisited


Author: Sarah Miller
Series: None
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 384
Obtained: publisher via Edelweiss+
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 3.75/5
Bottom Line: A fascinating look at Ma from Little House on the Prairie fame
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Summary: In this novel authorized by the Little House estate, Sarah Miller vividly recreates the beauty, hardship, and joys of the frontier in a dazzling work of historical fiction, a captivating story that illuminates one courageous, resilient, and loving pioneer woman as never before—Caroline Ingalls, "Ma" in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved Little House books. In the frigid days of February, 1870, Caroline Ingalls and her family leave the familiar comforts of the Big Woods of Wisconsin and the warm bosom of her family, for a new life in Kansas Indian Territory. Packing what they can carry in their wagon, Caroline, her husband Charles, and their little girls, Mary and Laura, head west to settle in a beautiful, unpredictable land full of promise and peril. The pioneer life is a hard one, especially for a pregnant woman with no friends or kin to turn to for comfort or help. The burden of work must be shouldered alone, sickness tended without the aid of doctors, and babies birthed without the accustomed hands of mothers or sisters. But Caroline’s new world is also full of tender joys. In adapting to this strange new place and transforming a rough log house built by Charles’ hands into a home, Caroline must draw on untapped wells of strength she does not know she possesses. For more than eighty years, generations of readers have been enchanted by the adventures of the American frontier’s most famous child, Laura Ingalls Wilder, in the Little House books. Now, that familiar story is retold in this captivating tale of family, fidelity, hardship, love, and survival that vividly reimagines our past. ~amazon.com  

Review: First of all, I would have never made it as a Pioneer woman. So I have much respect for everything they had to do to keep their families alive and well as documented in Caroline: Little House, Revisited.

Caroline Ingalls is a marvel but even more so is her marriage to Charles. He treated her like an equal when I'm pretty sure men in the time didn't always share that view. He was head over heels for her and she with him. He respected her opinion and valued it. She knew what was expected of her but it didn't stop her from wanting a bit more than what was in front of her.

While Caroline knew that leaving her comfort zone with her family to lean on and help. Not to mention when it come to working the farm, she knew it would be more difficult for them to manage on their own. She would need to help more while also tending to the 2 girls and the new baby on the way.

There are subject matters that aren't easy to read about in the book but are typical of that time period. Caroline has a huge distrust and bigotry towards Native Americans. I can see why she was scared at certain points but really they were being pushed off their land. I'm not sure if she understood the magnitude of that decision.

It is obvious that Ms. Miller did her research on Caroline and the time period. It shows in the writing of the details. At times it feels that you are in the wagon or on the plains with them. Ms. Miller chose to focus on the period of time in the Ingalls' lives that moved them from Wisconsin to Kansas instead of her entire life.

If you are a fan of the Little House House series, then you won't want to miss Caroline: Little House, Revisited. It made me want to go pull out my daughter's books again.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Julie's Review: The Light We Lost


Author: Jill Santopolo
Series: None
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Publisher: Putnam
Pages: 336
Obtained: Library
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Epic
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Summary: He was the first person to inspire her, to move her, to truly understand her. Was he meant to be the last? Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story—their story—at the very beginning. Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts. This devastatingly romantic debut novel about the enduring power of first love, with a shocking, unforgettable ending, is Love Story for a new generation. ~amazon.com  

Review: Drop everything and go pick up Light We Lost. You will cry, you will laugh, your heart will rejoice and your heart will break. This is one of those books that will make you fall in love with love. The story of Gabe and Lucy is epic. Their love is hot but never fades away. Somehow, someway they keep coming back to each other throughout various stages of their lives. Both of them are young when they meet each other on 9/11/2001 and it is a date that will forever keep them connected. Lucy and Gabe are have a connection from the first time they meet but certain circumstances exist that don't allow them to be together until fate brings them together a couple years later. Both of them are passionate people which helps to ignite their love for each other. Sometimes being passionate can mean restlessness as you try to figure out your life's path. Decisions always change the path of your life but sometimes it changes someone else's path as well. Gabe and Lucy share everything and are always encouraging each other with their careers. He never belittles her career or minds that she is career focused. It isn't until Gabe's decision about his career will ultimately be the demise of their relationship.

Neither Lucy or Gabe are perfect, they are both far from it but together they really are yin and yang. They compliment each other like good couples should. As with life, it moves on and both of them do in their own ways but yet they still orbit around each other, maintaining contact via email/text and occasionally seeing each other. We see the story from Lucy's view point and I do kind of wonder what Gabe's point of view would be if she had chosen to tell the story from both perspectives. Lucy doesn't excuse her behavior in some ways and she doesn't ask us to forgive her choices; after all who are we to judge her? What would we do if given the same choices. I think it is possible to love and be in love with 2 vastly different people at the same time. Lucy learns things from Darren that she would have never learned by being with Gabe. Gabe though was her star and her center; how do you compete with that? I think it's a good thing that Darren never knew there was a competition going on in Lucy's mind.

I loved what Lucy's mom said to her on her wedding day, something to the effect of a relationship ebbs and flows, sometimes you will be the one who loves your significant other more and sometimes you will be the one who gets more love. This is so true and it's how you make it through these different times that define you as a couple.

I really feel that Light We Lost is a book that you need to read for yourself. My review will not do it justice. Ms. Santopolo did an excellent job of capturing first love,y young love, marriage and the fact that sometimes there's someone your history is always linked to no matter how hard you try to disconnect yourself from them.

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