Thursday, March 17, 2011

night road

Night Road, by Kristin Hannah

Night RoadI received an advanced readers' edition of this book, and I COULD NOT put it down!! It was very hard to stop reading in order to function as a normal human. (Go to bed, go to work, etc.) I found myself sitting at my desk, wonder what Lexi was doing while I was there working....

From the publisher: For eighteen years, Jude Farraday has put her children’s needs above her own, and it shows—her twins, Mia and Zach—are bright and happy teenagers.  When Lexi Baill moves into their small, close knit community, no one is more welcoming than Jude.  Lexi, a former foster child with a dark past, quickly becomes Mia’s best friend.  Then Zach falls in love with Lexi and the three become inseparable. 
Jude does everything to keep her kids on track for college and out of harm’s way.  It has always been easy-- until senior year of high school.  Suddenly she is at a loss.  Nothing feels safe anymore; every time her kids leave the house, she worries about them. 
On a hot summer’s night her worst fears come true. One decision will change the course of their lives.  In the blink of an eye, the Farraday family will be torn apart and Lexi will lose everything.  In the years that follow, each must face the consequences of that single night and find a way to forget…or the courage to forgive.
Vivid, universal, and emotionally complex, NIGHT ROAD raises profound questions about motherhood, identity, love, and forgiveness.  It is a luminous, heartbreaking novel that captures both the exquisite pain of loss and the stunning power of hope.  This is Kristin Hannah at her very best, telling an unforgettable story about the longing for family, the resilience of the human heart, and the courage it takes to forgive the people we love.

Half way through the book I found that I needed to keep my box of Kleenex handy. As sad as I was, I wanted to know more. I wanted to know how Lexi was going to keep going, and what was going to happen to the Farraday family. 
I really love how the author was able to make the characters so real. I felt like I was friends with all of them, that I knew all about their lives, just from what I was able to read. I have read one other book by this author, Firefly Lane, and I think I'm going to have to add her other novels to my list!

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, by Heidi W. Durrow

From the Publisher: Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I., becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy after a fateful morning on their Chicago rooftop. 

Forced to move to a new city, with her strict African American grandmother as her guardian, Rachel is thrust for the first time into a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring a constant stream of attention her way. It’s there, as she grows up and tries to swallow her grief, that she comes to understand how the mystery and tragedy of her mother might be connected to her own uncertain identity. 

This searing and heartwrenching portrait of a young biracial girl dealing with society’s ideas of race and class is the winner of the Bellwether Prize for best fiction manuscript addressing issues of social justice.

This book was just captivating, from start to finish it took me less than 24 hours! It was told from a few different character's points of view: Rachel, her mother's boss (Larone), her mother's journal entries (Nella), and Jamie/Brick. Rachel is forced to move to Portland after her mother and her family jump from the rooftop in Chicago. She has to begin life in a new city, in a new school, and what essentially is a new life and identity. I really liked how the author was able to make you feel just what Rachel was feeling, it was like she was one of your own friends and you were living the change yourself. 

Jamie lived in the apartment building that Nella and her family lived in, and he saw what he thought were birds falling from the sky the day of the accident. Turns out it wasn't birds. He lived with a drug-addicted mother who didn't seem to have a clue as to what was going on. He decided to create a new identity for himself when a report asked him about the accident. He met up with Rachel's father in the hospital, and once he heard the story of her father, he knew he had to let Rachel know what had happened. At a young age he became a runaway and eventually ended up in Portland too.

Larone was Nella's boss and was charged with cleaning up the apartment after the accident. You don't really learn a whole lot about her, but you learn enough to know that she was a compassionate lady.

You learn about Nella through her journal entries. You learn of her history with Rachel's father, and the turmoil she faces internally, knowing that she has bi-racial children in a society that doesn't always accept them.

As I said, I really enjoyed this book.  Part of me hopes that the author will write a sequel of sorts, to let us know what happens to Rachel as she gets older. I'd also like to know more about Brick and what happens with him.  This book will be featured in August in the Algonquin Book Club, where Heidi will be interviewed by Terry McMillan.  Feel free to join in at a club meeting near you, or even through the webcast! If you'd like to read an excerpt of the book, you can do so here. Thank you to Workman Publishing/Algonquin for sending me the copy to review!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pictures of You

Pictures of You, by Caroline Leavitt

Pictures of YouFrom the publisher: Two women running away from their marriages collide on a foggy highway, killing one of them. The survivor, Isabelle, is left to pick up the pieces, not only of her own life, but of the lives of the devastated husband and fragile son that the other woman, April, has left behind. Together, they try to solve the mystery of where April was running to, and why. As these three lives intersect, the book asks, How well do we really know those we love—and how do we forgive the unforgivable?

This was one book that I just couldn't put down! I had to force myself to stop when my lunch break was over. I kept wanting to know what would happen, as if it would keep going if I wasn't sitting there reading the book. 

It started it out with Isabelle driving away from her husband, from a life that she no longer lived. Unfortunately, a thick fog came in, and she ended up in a horrific accident. She ended up returning to the town she had just left, trying to figure out a life, sorting out here feelings for Charlie (husband of the woman she killed) and Sam (the son). I found myself cheering for Isabelle, then becoming angry with her decisions. I wanted to shake her, then I wanted to just sit and talk and tell her I sympathized. I appreciated how photography took a role in this book, perhaps because I've been more interested in taking pictures lately. While the ending and I didn't necessarily agree, I cannot complain. I mean, you can't control the way life leads all the time either, right?

I really do recommend this book, and I look forward to picking up other books by Ms. Leavitt when I have some free time.

Special thank you go Michael from Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill for allowing me to read this title!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Perfect Love Song

The Perfect Love Song, by Patti Callahan Henry

The Perfect Love Song: A Holiday StoryThis book was a good read around the holidays. I'm sorry that the review is in January, but maybe you'll want to continue Christmas just a bit longer? (We still have our tree up, so it fits in our house!)

From the publisher: Jimmy Sullivan has been living on the road with his brother, Jack, and his band The Unknown Souls. Without a place to call home, Jimmy and Jack lead a nomadic life filled with music and anonymous cities. When they return to a place Jimmy never wants to see again—their old hometown of Seaboro, South Carolina—he falls in love with Charlotte Carrington. With his soul now filled with hope, Jimmy writes his first love song. When he performs it at a holiday concert to a standing ovation, the lyrics are dubbed the "Perfect Love Song," so much so that Jimmy finds himself going on tour with famous country music stars, catapulted into a world where the trappings of fame and fortune reign supreme. All too soon, the hope that had once inspired Jimmy to write such beautiful, genuine lyrics is overshadowed by what the song can do for him and his career. In his thirst for recognition, he agrees to miss Jack’s wedding in Ireland to sing at a Christmas Eve concert. And his ties to Charlotte seem to be ever so quickly slipping away. Is it too late to find his way to Ireland, to his brother, and to love?

My thoughts: I have to admit, it started off pretty slow. I started reading it when it arrived in my mailbox (thank you, Vanguard Press!), but after the first chapter, I had to put it down. It wasn't calling to me, and I had other things that were more pressing that needed to be done. I let it sit for about a week, read at least one other book, then I went back to it. After I gave up trying to figure out just who was narrating the story, I started to enjoy it. Perhaps it had been told in the beginning and I had missed it. I don't think I did, but you never know. Anyway, after about halfway through the book, I couldn't put it down. I realized I knew what the ending would be, but I had to find out just how it happened. I started to wonder why Jimmy was acting like an idiot, and I felt bad for Charlotte. I started to feel like I knew the characters personally, and I wanted to wring Jimmy's neck for being stupid.

Over all, after a rough start, this book turned out to be a good one. Will I reread it every Christmas season like I used to read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson? No, I can't say that I will. I will say that it was a good book and I was glad I gave it a second chance. I think I might even give some of the other titles by Patti a go when I get a chance!