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The Unquiet

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I look forward to this yearly supernatural anthology, and this one was very good. A couple of the tales were lighthearted while a few of them were darker, which gave it a nice balance.
Giving Up the Ghost: A Story About Friendship, 80s Rock, a Lost Scrap of Paper, and What It Means to Be Haunted

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I don't read a lot of memoirs, and when I first requested this book I wasn't even aware that it WAS a memoir. It doesn't take long to realize that the author struggled from various mental health issues, but what draws you into the book is the loneliness and longing he feels for his friend Laura, a friend who died long ago but he can't let go of. The author goes on a journey to prove to himself once and for all that ghosts, the spectral kind, don't actually exist. Unfortunately he can't let go of the ghosts of his confusing past. Laura was his one true friend, his anchor, and while he has since recovered from many of his past demons, he has never been able to get past her loss. You can feel the sadness and regret, but what really comes through is the appreciation he has for his friend and this book is almost his thank-you gift to her. A quick and interesting read that I think a lot of people will appreciate.
The Hunger Games

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There's not a whole lot I can say about this book that hasn't been said already, but I just could not put it down. Katniss is selfless, independent, and in many ways hardened, but extremely likeable. She is the reason you will love this book.
What Alice Forgot

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Beautifully written.....heartwarming and funny. While Alice's story takes center stage, there are also two other compelling stories and points of view shared throughout the novel. You can't help but wonder (along with Alice) how she changed so much in ten years. I kept wondering how the author could possibly pull off an emotionally satisfying and realistic ending, but she did it. Definitely one of my favorite reads this year.
The Inn at Rose Harbor

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I've read several Debbie Macomber books over the years. Either I've outgrown her writing style or her books have just become more bland. The plot was okay, but the book seemed to be full of a lot of filler instead of substance. It could have easily been shortened by 100 pages. Every page seemed full of mundane details that contributed to the word count but didn't enhance the story. Macomber's books have definitely become more of inspirational reads than the earlier books, which fell more into women's fiction. I found the characters to be trite and quite predictable. There's nothing wrong with knowing what to expect from an author, and if easily resolved conflict and cookie-cutter characters are your comfort food, then this book will meet your expectations. I prefer passionate and diverse characters in the books I read; a little something to keep me on the edge of my seat. This book just didn't do it for me.
Outlander

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This is one of the best books I have ever read. A sweeping historical tale of romance and time-travel, yet it's told with as much reality as such a book can muster. The best thing this novel (and subsequent ones in the series) is takes an unrealistic premise and keeps it grounded in as much reality as possible. This book is often classified as a romance novel but that is only one element of this book. Imagine being taken from your own time (in this case, post WWII) and being thrust 200 years in the past. Much is made out of the harsh realities of the past. Lack of modern day medicine is a major focus of the novel, as well as the shift in cultural attitudes towards women and science. Slavery, disease, and witch trials are just a few of the things that people who romanticize history tend to forget about but are exposed quite cruelly in this book and subsequent ones. Seeing things through Claire's perspective (the main character) is fascinating because she is enlightened to the ways of the modern world but essentially powerless to effect change. It makes you think.
What Happened to My Sister

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This is a sequel to Me and Emma, and I highly suggest reading that book before starting this one. Without reading it first, this novel won't make a lot of sense.I really enjoy Elizabeth Flock's writing style and the gritty characters she creates. I was excited to visit with Carrie again in this novel, and we meet some new characters who aren't quite as interesting but give Carrie a new perspective on the world.Carrie did not have an easy life when we first met her in Me and Emma, and things have not improved for her in this novel. At times I became quite heartsick, thinking about all of the real Carries, out there living this way. While I gave Me and Emma 5 stars (and stand by that rating), What Happened to my Sister paled in comparison. It didn't have the shock factor that made Me and Emma so powerful, and the ending of Sister is a little too fairy-tale for me to consider it realistic. It was still a great book that I could not put down, and for that reason alone I would recommend giving it a read.
Nowhere to Hide

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I had a hard time staying interested in this book. I'm not sure if this is part of a series, but I felt like I was missing some back story on the main character, September. The pace wasn't as fast as I would have preferred, which isn't to say it was boring, but in this genre I like more action and less personal drama.
Monarch Beach

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I really wanted to like this book more than I did. The author has a great writing style and interesting characters. Without spoiling the ending, I will say that the last few chapters are what made me dislike the book. Perhaps I am being overly critical of the main character in this book, but I don't really feel that she grew as a person from the beginning of the novel. I kept trying to connect with her and got the feeling that she is just drifting through life, letting other people guide her towards her choices. I didn't see any real signs of independence or change, which was frustrating as a reader.
Starting Now: A Blossom Street Novel

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I've read a lot of Debbie Macomber's books over the years, and one thing that hasn't changed is the audience that she primarily writes for: Christian grandmothers. That being said, Starting Now is not a bad book. It's predictable but sweet and interesting. The main character, Libby, has lost her job and now has way too much free time on her hands, which results in her spending time knitting and volunteering at the hospital rocking premature babies. This gives her a chance to meet new people, strengthen old relationships, and form new ones. Ultimately she has to decide if this new life is the one she wants or if her older career-driven life is still worth chasing. Two little things made me crazy in this book. First of all, everyone in this book eats soup all the time. People are constantly going out for soup, delivering soup to one another, or ordering soup to go. Debbie Macomber must really love soup. Also, Libby's answer to everything is "perfect." It's never "great", "sounds good", "wonderful"....it's always "perfect." I thought if I saw the word "perfect" one more time I was going to scream. Anyway, if you're familiar with Debbie Macomber then you will enjoy this book. If you enjoy light inspirational novels with family and relationship themes, you will enjoy it as well.
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