Gracie’s Song book review

Last week I was contacted by author Michelle Schlicher, asking if I would like to review her latest book Gracie’s Song.  Michelle’s timing was perfect because I was just finishing up another book and looking for a new one to start.  Michelle described Gracie’s Song as a contemporary romance.  I am being completely honest in saying that I didn’t quite know what to expect from a contemporary romance novel.  Was it going to be hot and steamy like a Harlequin Romance novel?  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  You see, romance novels aren’t typically a genre that I seek out.  If a book that I read happens to have a great love story, then I’m almost sure to enjoy it, but a straight up romance novel isn’t something I would generally choose.     Fortunately for me, Gracie’s Song was, in my opinion, contemporary fiction with an element of romance.

 Gracie's Song

Gracie Brannen left her home in Glenwood under mysterious circumstances shortly after her high school graduation, leaving behind her family and friends and a whole lot of unanswered questions.  Among those she left behind was lifelong friend and boyfriend Finn Miller.  Ten years later, she returns home for her mother’s funeral.  Though Gracie has grown into a strong and independent woman, it seems that not much has changed in her small hometown.

Gracie quickly rekindles her relationships with both her sister and best friend and is welcomed into their families.  Her absence is easily forgiven by everyone except Finn, with whom she just can’t seem to reconcile her past.

Gracie’s Song has elements of intrigue that will leave readers on the edge of their seats as Gracie’s past and her reasons for leaving Glenwood are slowly revealed.  This story will break your heart and leave you wanting to know more about some of Gracie’s closest relationships.  While the author didn’t leave any loose ends, Gracie’s Song would easily lend itself to a sequel.

Gracie’s Song is author Michelle Schlicher’s 2nd novel.  I can’t wait to read her debut novel The Blue Jay.

For more information about Michelle’s books, click on the images below:

 

 

Please note:  I received a complementary copy of this book to review.  All opinions expressed within this review are my own.

 

A run-down of what I’m reading

So, life happens and I’ve had a full plate lately.  I’m up to my eyeballs in after school enrichment registrations and helping out with other things at Grace’s school.  I’ve had lots of family time over the last few weeks, which I’ve treasured.  But between keeping my house clean, my people fed, and stressing out about things that are currently beyond my control, my blogging has suffered as has my sleep.  I’ve managed to squeeze in reading, but that is about all the extracurricular activity that I’ve had time for.  Though I may be tired, I’m grateful for this busy season in my life.  It means that I am surrounded by people and activities that I love!

With that, I am going to do something a little different today to catch up.  I am going to do a quick rundown of the last few books I’ve read.

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider has been sitting at the top of my review list for the longest, so I will start with it first.  I downloaded this one from the library.  I LOVE being able to download books from the library directly to my Kindle.  If I come across a few that are available now while I’m browsing, I usually download them instantly.

Extraordinary Means is a YA novel about two teenagers who fall for each other under strange circumstances.  Lane and Sadie are sent away to a sanatorium for students with tuberculosis.  Latham House is a former boarding school, turned hospital that acts as a means to quarantine young TB patients during an epidemic outbreak.  Comparisons of Extraordinary Means to The Fault in Our Stars aren’t without merit, but to me it fell a little short of TFIOS greatness.  I gave this one 3/5 stars on Goodreads, but would probably make it 3.5 if I could.  It is an interesting story, with some predictable circumstances, but worthy of a good discussion.

Up next on my Kindle was Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertallianother great library download!  Being that it was only recently released last spring, I really didn’t know what to expect from this book.  At first, I didn’t love the tone of this book.  It was brooding and kind of angry.  I’m not sure if it was the book that changed or if it was me.  As I continued reading, it grew on me and I ended up really loving this book for its boldness.  Simon is a gay high school student, forced out of the closet against his will.  And though his dignity has been stripped away, Simon manages to carry on with grace.  This is a sweet teenage love story that gives me hope for our younger generations and it is very worthy of 4/5 stars.

I pulled Donna Tartt’s A Secret History off my bookshelf next.  I have a stack of used books that I purchased over the summer that I’ve barely delved into.  Must stop reading Kindle books!  But in all seriousness, I picked A Secret History as my next read because there was so much buzz about it on my Instagram feed.  People were raving about it and calling it a favorite!

This book was hefty, weighing in at 628 pages.  Having devoured The Goldfinch earlier in the summer, I was sure I was in for a treat with A Secret History.  Boy, was I wrong.  Set in the late 80’s at a small private college that strives to be Ivy League, A Secret History is about a group of pretentious students who study Greek and only Greek.  They are an elite group of six who happen to have the rare and unusual privilege of being educated privately by an eccentric old professor.  When the group stumbles into some trouble and one of the odd men out threatens to reveal their transgressions, the rest take measures into their own hands.  For me, where this book differed from The Goldfinch was in its characters’ likability.   I’ve said it before, I just can’t enjoy a book with unlikable characters and this book was rife with them.  This book has all the feels of a classic, but I’m not sure it will ever live up to that distinction.  I give this one 2/5 stars, leaning towards a 2.5.

 

And just this morning, I finished up Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, another highly anticipated YA library download that I had on hold.  It was hugely disappointing to me and what’s more is I have all the other Rainbow Rowell books on hold at the library, as well!  I’m still holding out hope for Eleanor & Parkbut may have to abandon the others.

Fangirl is the story of Cath, a socially awkward freshman fumbling through her first year of college, while also dealing with some fairly serious family issues.  Cath writes young adult fan fiction, based on the fictitious Simon Snow series, to a huge internet following.  Simon Snow is a play on the Harry Potter series, but a poor imitation at best.  Excerpts from Simon Snow and Cath’s fan fiction are sprinkled throughout the pages of Fangirl.  I found myself skipping over these sections entirely because they were so poorly written.  I wanted to cheer for Cath, but again, I didn’t find her to be all that likable of a character.  She doesn’t make it easy to like her, even the other characters in the book have a difficult time befriending her.  My overall feeling of this book was one of disappointment.  It was just not a compelling read, nor was it very well written.  I give this book a solid 2/5 stars, with better expectations for Eleanor & Park.  

So, what have you been reading lately?  Anything good?  Because it sure looks like I could use some decent recommendations!  I think I’m going to have to pull something highly anticipated off my bookshelf to make up for these last two snoozers.

The Rosie Project Book Review

I may be a little late to this party, but I just have to share how much I loved The Rosie Project!

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Many of you may know that I was a special education teacher before I was a mom, so I almost always enjoy reading books, whether fiction or non-fiction, about people with special with special needs.  The Rosie Project is about Don Tillman, a highly intelligent genetics professor who also happens to be quite socially inept.  Don’t worry, that isn’t an insult.  Don is quite aware of his own social incompetencies and his rigidity to schedules.  Even after researching and giving a presentation on Asperger’s Syndrome, Don still doesn’t seem to quite connect the dots.

Don has just a few close friends, and even fewer girlfriend prospects.  Knowing that his personality quirks affects his dating life, Don decides to embark on The Wife Project.  He creates a formal survey which he will give to all potential candidates to determine if they meet his extremely high standards.  If they pass, which very few do, then they can be considered for wife material.

In the midst of wife hunting, Don is introduced to Rosie who proceeds to turn his neat and orderly life upside down.  Because of her many eccentricities, Don quickly excludes Rosie from The Wife Project.  Yet he is drawn to Rosie and goes to great lengths to help her with a major life project of her own.

I really adored this book.  It was a quick, light-hearted read.  They say opposites attract and in Rosie and Don’s case, this seems to be true.  You will find yourself chuckling out loud to this sweet rom-com.  And rumor has it that Jennifer Lawrence will star as Rosie in an upcoming movie production of the Rosie Project.

If you loved the Rosie Project, check out the sequel:

The Dinner Book Review

This is a book that I never thought I would read, let alone review.  When I first learned about The Dinner by Herman Koch, I was intrigued.  It sounded like a great plot, until I heard reviews.  It was being compared to Gone Girl.  I knew that was where they lost me.  I had no interest in reading another book like Gone Girl (my apologies to those who liked it) and have avoided reading any of Gillian Flynn’s other novels because of it.  But yesterday, when I was scouring our library’s digital catalog for something to listen to while cooking and doing laundry, this book came across my radar.  For some reason, I wondered if listening to the book might be better than actually reading it.  In my head, I justified it as multi-tasking.  I had nothing to lose.  If I didn’t enjoy it, at least I hadn’t wasted time sitting and doing nothing other than reading.  In fact, I got quite a lot done around the house while listening to it over the last two days.

The Dinner by Herman Koch

As readers, we are invited to join a family dinner among two brothers and their spouses in a swanky upscale restaurant in Amsterdam.  The majority of the book takes place around the table, with plenty of flashbacks to bolster the plot.  Narrator Paul tells the story of his son Michel and his brother’s son, who together have committed a horrific crime.  The two families meet to discuss how the incident should be handled.  

The audio version of The Dinner is narrated by Clive Mantle.  Mantle delivers this reading so brilliantly that, at first, I thought the book to be satire.  As I was listening, I actually thought to myself, “No wonder people don’t like it!  They aren’t getting the satire.  They aren’t reading into the sarcasm that seems to drip from the narrator’s voice when you hear it as an audiobook.”   But as the story wore on, I realized that it was not satire at all.  What I was hearing was complete contempt.  

I had a wide range of emotions while listening to this book.  At first, thinking it was satire, I found it to be a bit humorous.  Paul is poking fun at the expensive restaurant chosen by his brother Serge, who is a shoo-in to be the next prime minister of the Netherlands.  I quickly realize that he dislikes his brother and my attitude towards his brother is begrudging.  As we learn of the sons’ crime, I come to empathize with the parents, wondering what I would do if I were to find myself in a similar situation.  However, as Paul continues to create a backstory, my distaste for him as a person grows.  I find myself completely unsurprised that his son could commit such a horrific act.  And now, thinking back on the story, I find myself wondering if Serge wasn’t quite as terrible as I had made him out to be.  I’ve not read many books that have played with my emotions quite like this one.

The Dinner was a great book to listen to on audio.  I’m glad I chose this format because I would have crawled through it at a much slower pace had I been reading it.  This book has been classified as a psychological thriller.  I wouldn’t go quite that far, but I would say that it was dark.  It was dark in a way that you knew there would be no happy ending, similar to an Edgar Allan Poe story.  Yet, I was eager to know how it would end.  With all of its delicious twists and horrifying turns, the ending is one that may not surprise you.  But I can assure you, it will be a dinner unlike any you would ever want to attend.

Big Little Lies: A Book Review

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty is without a doubt one of my favorite books of the summer!  Madeline, Celeste, and Jane are an unlikely trio of friends and who are about to face a considerable turning point in each of their lives.  While battling their own inner demons, they are waging war of another kind on snarky kindergarten moms.

Big Little Lies

It is the first day of kindergarten at the public school in the charming little seaside town of Pirriwee near Sydney, Australia.  Madeline and Celeste have been good friends for quite some time.  When Madeline takes a fall in her fancy new high heels on her way to school, Jane comes to her rescue and becomes Madeline’s personal hero.  When Jane’s son is accused of assaulting another child on the first day of kindergarten, it is Madeline and Celeste who come to her rescue.  The three, despite their many differences become close friends who would do anything to protect their children.

Celeste is a mother of twin boys and is wealthy beyond belief and carrying around a dark secret.  Madeline is a middle-class suburban mom of three who is trying her best to maintain a blended family.  And Jane, who can’t seem to stay in one place for long, is a very young, very shy single mother of an only child who has a secret of her own.

The story leads up to the school’s annual trivia night.  Throughout the book, we are given snippets of investigative interviews which leads us to believe that a major turn of events will take place on trivia night.   When the big night finally arrives, each of these three women discover that the truth can, indeed, set you free.

I loved the friendship that these three ladies shared.  Liane Moriarty develops the most genuine characters that are so incredibly relatable.  I found myself wanting to be friends with these ladies.  If you are looking for a fun book with plenty of plot twists, then Big Little Lies is sure to please!

More great books by Liane Moriarty

Trip Through Your Wires: A Book Review

Twenty-eight year old Carey Halpern should be in the prime of her life.  Late twenties, single with no children, she should be living it up, right?  However, life isn’t so easy for Carey, who is in between jobs, living with her parents, and struggling to crawl out a pit of despair.  Trip Through Your Wires by Indiana author Sarah Layden takes us on a difficult and mysterious journey through Carey’s past in order to help her come to terms with the murder of someone she loved.

Trip Through Your Wires

Carey Halpern seems like the average college student.  She is home for the summer and hanging out at the mall with her old high school girlfriend when she spots Ben tossing pizzas in the air at a pizza shop in the food court.  Ben is also a college student, spending the summer at home in between semesters at a study abroad program in Guanajuato, Mexico.  Rather than introduce herself, Carey takes a different and much more dramatic approach when she decides to enroll in the same study abroad program.  When Carey arrives in Mexico, she finds herself face to face with Ben, who has no reason to believe that they should know each other.  Carey decides to keep her motives to herself and pursues Ben with such intensity that she loses all sight of her immersive education.

Fast forward several years to a Mexican restaurant in her hometown of Indianapolis.  Carey is at her own parting lunch, as her temporary secretarial position has ended.  While eating, Carey sees a brief news segment that new features details of Ben’s mysterious murder, which took place during their fateful year abroad.  As this new information emerges, Carey is forced to reexamine her past in order to move beyond her dismal presence.

I enjoy reading and supporting local authors.  That is one of the things that attracted me to Trip Through Your Wires while visiting Books N’ Brews in Indianapolis a few months ago.  Also, as a high school student, I visited Mexico for a short time as part of an exchange program.  I looked forward to a chance to revisit my experience, if only through the pages of this book.

In what seems to be a common theme among many leading female characters in today’s popular fiction, I found myself struggling to empathize with Carey.  I wanted so badly for her to wake up and see her situation for what it was–a fabrication of a dream that she attempted to create for herself.  Instead, her situation turned into a nightmare that she allows to swallow several years of her life.  Though it was gripping read, I found myself emotionally detached from the characters.  With nothing more than a thread of hope for Carey to overcome, it was little to cling to in a story with rife with seedy characters.

Books with compelling looks into the past

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman

The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

The Circle review

My most recent read was The Circle, by Dave Eggers.  It was a library book that I downloaded onto my Kindle almost a full year after a friend recommended it to me.  I was finally motivated to put this on hold when I heard they were going to make a movie out of it!  Rumor has it that Emma Watson and Tom Hanks will play starring roles, with Hanks also having some behind the scenes input.  I mean, a movie with both Hermoine Granger and Forrest Gump?  Sign me up!

The Circle

But first, I had to read the book.  That’s kind of my thing.  If there is a movie out that I really want to see, I try to make it my policy to always read the book first.  I may be guilty of instituting this policy with my child, as well.  I’ve also been known to buy a Kindle book and fly through it in a day or two, just so I can follow up with the movie.  In fact, I did that very thing a few short weeks ago with Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl.  But now I’m just giving away all of my secrets!

Back to The Circle.  I’ve read two other books by Dave Eggers, so it was no surprise that The Circle would take somewhat of a cultural stand.  I think what surprised me the most was how much this book affected me.  I was truly disturbed by this book.  So much so, that when I shared my sentiments with my husband, he questioned my sanity.  After all, he knows how much I love a good post-apocolyptic, dystopian novel.  Sure, those are all works of fiction.  But I think what really got me about this book was how eerily close to reality it is.

The Circle is a story about Mae, a young twenty-something who leaves a tired job for a new career in the global internet communications company known as The Circle.  Think Microsoft, Google, or Apple.  Mae begins as a customer service representative and acquires this position through her former college roommate, who is an upper level “Circler.”  As Mae pushes herself to secure her position, it becomes evident that she has no real sense of what is required of someone who works at The Circle.  No one possibly could.  She is asked to maintain a constant online presence, while also being present at the many, many daily social gatherings held on The Circle’s large urban campus.  Life is lead over social media.  Mae’s performance at The Circle is based on a complicated system of online ratings and formulas, in which it seems as though her every move is being evaluated by the general public.   It’s overwhelming, yet Mae pushes on despite more demands being made of her everyday.

As mere months wear on, Mae becomes ingratiated into The Circle.  Her life plays out in front of her on social media.  Mae becomes more isolated, choosing to move out of her apartment and into a room on campus so that she never has to leave The Circle, finding life outside to be offensive and lacking in order.  To say that The Circle is cult-like would be an understatement.  With her acceptance into The Circle, Mae’s attitude towards her loved ones changes.  She becomes bitter and vengeful.  Mae believes that the way of The Circle is the only way.  She eventually receives backlash from her parents and a former boyfriend, perhaps the only voices of reason left in a life so demanding of knowledge.  

In The Circle, author Dave Eggers imagines a world in the not-so distant future in which surveillance and social media have taken over the world.  As in a perfect utopian society, The Circle strives for and demands complete transparency.  Politicians and eventually regular citizens become outfitted with small cameras, allowing unfettered access to their lives.  Cameras are installed publicly and can be monitored by anyone with access to the internet.  The idea behind this being that, when we are constantly being monitored, we will all be on our very best behavior.  Crime rates will go down, but in return, all privacy will cease to exist.  It is a frightening notion that, at this point in history, seems like an eventual reality. 

I would be lying if I said that I enjoyed this book.  It made me uncomfortable to read, which I imagine was probably the intent.  At least I hope it was.  Because if we all just accept that privacy is a thing of the past, then we are enabling a society that is inching ever closer to totalitarianism.

All that being said, I think The Circle will translate well to film.  It is an intriguing story.  With the amazing talents of Tom Hanks and Emma Watson, I look forward to seeing it play out on screen!

If you liked The Circle, you might also enjoy: