Book Review: General Fiction

Book Review: The Party by Robyn Harding

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Book Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars to The Party by Robyn Harding.

the party

Why This Book
The publisher, Gallery Books, sent me a copy of this book either because I won a Goodreads Giveaway or they thought I might like the book (I get lots of books and I can’t remember how this one came to me exactly). I’m trying to close up my 2017 Reading Challenge and clean off all the outstanding books my bookshelf, so this one’s turn was up next!

Plot, Characters & Setting
Hannah is turning 16. Her parents throw her and some friends a party in the basement of their $2.5 million San Francisco home. Hannah invites some of the popular girls, as her fame is on the rise. She wants to fit in, but the girls bring alcohol and drugs. When something awful happens, her parents, Jeff and Kim, are thrust into a lawsuit and a divided high school. Hannah’s friends are typical 16-year-old girls searching for acceptance and adult experiences. Kim and Jeff’s marriage is having a few issues and they are each keeping a secret from one another. Their friends aren’t sure what’s wrong, but someone isn’t telling the truth about the night of the party. The novel explores the lengths to which parents will go to protect their children, as well as those young adults will go to keep their own secrets.

Approach & Style
I read this 340 page paperback book in two sittings over the course of one day. It absorbed me! It’s told in third person POV from the perspective of 4 or 5 main characters. Chapters alternate their focus, revealing different aspects of a story over the course of a 6-month period. The writing is clear and concise, which made it quite a quick read.

Strengths & Concerns
Harding quickly makes you dislike these characters, which is a good thing. I was immediately taken back to what life was like in high school for many students. While I felt some components were an exaggeration, I also know that things like this happened to varying degrees. For the most part, it really captured the reality of what 16-year-old girls go through, but it also showcased a particularly nasty strain of kids hoping to climb to the top. It angered me (the plot), but it also impressed me (the quality of the details). I enjoyed the leaps between different characters. It was a page-turner for me and brought me back to when I once lived in San Francisco.

On the flip side, the ending was not what I wanted nor expected. It had a few too many open questions. For a story with lots of tight components, I think this was a bit of a let-down. Ultimately, I’m not sure if I learned a less or just saw a slice of life during a short time period. I’d be fine if it were either case, but it was a bit too blurry. I definitely took sides in the conflict, which makes me wonder what kind of a person I am… in terms of who I rooted for. While I understand both sides, ultimately, the wrong people were punished for something they had little responsibility for. At the same time, it propelled the lives of every person in that school toward a new direction. If everything came together better in the end, this would have been a solid 4-rated book for me, but it unraveled in a few too many places so I knocked a half star off.

Final Thoughts
I’d still recommend this book despite the ending which threw me too much. You’ll be drawn in and really enjoy witnessing the battle, as there isn’t necessarily a right and wrong in an unfortunate accident like this one. It’s a strong point of view and really shows the differences in the way parents and children think.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.
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Book Review: Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

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Book Review: 4 out of 5 stars to Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak.

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Why This Book
I was surfing NetGalley when this one appeared on my screen. Given it’s a family drama, one of my favorite sub-genres, I had to read it. I’m on a kick to finish reading all my NetGalley books by 12/31 before I can request anything else, so this moved to the top of the list. I added it as a book on my ‘Book Bucket List’ on my blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com/my-very-own-book-bucket-list/, where my followers choose one book for me to read each month. This was the winner for December, so I moved it up the queue.

Plot, Characters & Setting
The Birch family, parents Emma and Andrew, have two daughters, Olivia and Phoebe, in a small lovely English town. Olivia is visiting for the first time in a very long time, taking a week’s vacation from her work in Africa. Due to working with a particular type of disease, she and her family must live in quarantine for 1 week to ensure the disease doesn’t spread. Each family member has their own secret, which are all starting to come undone during this week long exercise in re-connection. I won’t spoil anything, but it’s a very warm-story about how everyone relates with each other, or fails to connect, over the course of this 7-day period. A few visitors stop by the house, not realizing they must stay once they’ve been exposed, which makes the drama level heightened.

Approach & Style
I read the Kindle version on my iPad of this 350 page book over the course of a week. It’s a contemporary fiction family drama novel told from the perspective of each of the major characters in the main family. The novel is in third person POV with relatively short chapters.

Strengths & Concerns
Hornak excels at creating distinct family members with believable characteristics and stories. I liked them all for different reasons, but even better as a family unit. The English setting is quite charming and helps shine a light on the type of ‘off-balance’ relationships going on in the Birch family. The story doesn’t get nicely wrapped up in a bow at the end, which is always a good thing — it’s nice to leave a bit of drama still circulating around the edges. The writing is crisp and clean. I find myself thinking about the family days after I’ve finished reading it.

While I enjoyed the construct of the seven day period, it felt a bit rushed as there is a bit of history to get caught up on with each character. It’s minor, and there’s really no other way around it (I’ve written a novel in a similar structure, so I totally get it!). I would have liked some additional content in the Epilogue to know where the characters went eventually; the current version was way too short. Both are minor and nothing to even distract or worry. I always try to leave a small suggestion.

Author, Other Similar Books, & Final Thoughts
I believe this is her debut, and it’s outstanding under that context. I truly look forward to reading more from her. Thank you to NetGalley for granting me the ability to read this book, as well as the publisher and author.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

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Book Review: The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

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4 out of 5 stars to The Art of Hiding, a family drama novel published in July 2017 and written by Amanda Prowse. I adored this book and am so glad I read it; let’s get right into the review.

hiding

Why This Book
A few months ago, I’d finished reading ‘The Idea of You,’ by this author. I really enjoyed the book, and when ‘The Art of Hiding’ showed up on my NetGalley feed, I had to request it. I forgot that they approved my request until last week, when I went to select whatever was next to be published as my next book to start reading. I’d been so busy writing my own novel, I missed the publish date for this one. So I quickly read it in 2+ days to get caught up.

Plot, Characters & Setting
Nina McCarrick, a mid-30s mother of two boys, 10 and 14, lives a wonderful life on a beautiful Southampton, England estate. That is, until her husband unexpectedly dies and she learns all was not what he’d been telling her. Suddenly losing her life high up on the hill, she’s forced to turn to all her friends and family for assistance. One person takes her in, helping re-build a life for both Nina and the boys. Nina begins to learn the difference between losing your own identity and being part of a married couple. Sometimes, it isn’t a good idea to give up control of all aspects of your life, as when it comes crashing down, you’ll have no idea what to expect.

Approach & Style
I read this novel through Kindle Reader on my iPad over the course of two and a half days. It is about 300 pages long, divided into 15 chapters, all told from Nina’s perpsective in third person point of view. The language is simple but meaningful; it reads itself as you feel immersed in the world Prowse has created for her readers. You could probably read this all in one day over 4 to 5 hours if you kept focused, and it would definitely be an enjoyable read.

Strengths
Prowse tells intricate family stories full of complexity and drama; not so much with everyone around the main characters, but within their small family unit. I felt the same way about one of her other books, and I’ve now come to realize this is her style; this is who the author is and what she excels at.

Nina is easy to relate with, given she is a new widow and has young boys to care for. She has no job, her skills are mostly outdated according to anyone she runs into. You immediately feel a strong connection with the woman, wanting to see her succeed. She’s a wonderful mother. She doesn’t sugarcoat the truth either. She dances around it a bit, hoping not to devastate her children, but she also knows hiding their situation will do more harm than good.

It’s not a suspense story, yet I only put it down because it was midnight and had to wake up early the next morning. You feel as though the events unfold right in your own living room as you are reading, and simply do not want to miss a moment of the beauty and pain inside this family.

Concerns
Very little with this book. It wasn’t a huge and amazing story that captures a tremendous amount of ground. It’s simple and thought-provoking. I felt it could have used a little more clarity around the death of the father and the days leading up to it. At the same time, it all came as a shock to Nina, so why shouldn’t it come as a shock to readers, too. But in the end, I would have connected a bit more strongly if I had some current history. Just a smidge.

On occasion, the relationship Nina had with others felt a bit fake. I thought it was necessary to the plot in some places, but it was a little too much in other places. Sometimes the balance between her being a lonely and hidden wife versus a lonely and hidden widow losing everything wasn’t as clear as I’d have liked it to be. A few extra paragraphs explaining how she interacted with her ‘friends’ before she became a widow might have helped give it more substance and a range between the two people she needed to be during the course of the book. I also think her ‘lows’ weren’t low enough, meaning she needed to struggle more in finding a job, not being able to pay bills. There was some of this impact, but a few things were a little too hunky dory for my taste.

Final Thoughts
Amanda Prowse is quickly becoming 1 of my top 10 favorite authors. I actually marked five more of her books as ‘to-read’ today since I’ve read two and given then both 4’s. I’m going to search NetGalley after I post this review to see if I can get my greedy little hands on more. This woman can really write stories that straddle that line between heartbreak and the promise of a better day.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

Review: The Great Gatsby

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The Great GatsbyBook Review
4+ out of 5 stars to The Great Gatsby, written in 1925 by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I read this book the summer before I went away for college. Knowing that it took place in the 1920, a time period I adored, on the Gold Coast of Long Island, where I lived, and the main character’s name was Jay, like me, how could I not make it a priority? And I’m so glad I did. It’s a fantastic story with so many components and a ton to say about life. The characters felt so alive. The setting and the description felt familiar. The actions seemed to call you to jump inside the book. It was a phenomenal read for me… and the only reason I held back a 5 is because I felt there were a few too many caricatures drawn on people from the time period. Though it comes close to being accurate, it took a few points too far. Where it could have held back, showing a few more realities, it stepped into a bit of quick-sand for me… pulling people’s views to the extraordinary instead of the familiar. I had the same reaction to some of the film versions. All that glitters is not gold, and I don’t know that Fitzgerald wanted those areas to be the primary thing people took from the novel. There was more beyond it. But it’s one of those books that really gives you a perspective unlike any other about the things that happened both out in the open and beyond closed doors.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

View all my reviews

Review: The Catcher in the Rye

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The Catcher in the RyeBook Review
3+ out of 5 stars to The Catcher in the Rye, a coming-of-age novel published in 1951 by J.D. Salinger. I am so glad I read this book as a teenager and not as an adult. I would absolutely hate it today, not because it’s poorly written or has no value, but because I’d hate Holden more than anything in the world. I was certainly not a perfect teenager, but I never had that angst as a kid, nor do I have it now. I have maybe 10 days a year where I complain a little bit about something, but for the most part, my mouth is shut and I do what I’m supposed to do. Supposed to, as in my own perception, not because someone else tells me to do it. Arguing and railing and running away and getting angry don’t come naturally to me, so I couldn’t identify with him. That said, I’ve seen this in others and it was well captured, a bit ahead of its time. For those reasons, it’s a good book. I’m a little concerned this is the type of book that will no longer be read… and teens reading it today wouldn’t understand it. I’m curious to see reviews by the under 25 crowd, just purely to see if the current generation has any different feelings towards it than I had when I read it in high school in the 90s.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

View all my reviews

Review: The Cherry Orchard

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The Cherry OrchardBook Review
4 out of 5 stars to The Cherry Orchard, a tragedy and comedy all rolled into one, published in 1904 by a great Russian, Anton Chekhov. I’d heard of this play during my high school years, but never actually read it. In college, I had a course in modern drama and theatre, where this was one of the 16 plays we read: 1 per week for the 4 month course. Our school also performed a theatrical version a later semester where I participated in some backstage work. We also did a video and literary analytical comparison. I know the play well. Commentary on society. Discussion of values. Choices. Understanding what you will give up for what you need to have. The themes in this one are so large, it’s often hard to discuss them without getting animated.

Additionally, The Cherry Orchard was the piece that I did my technical and textual analysis on, so I had strong opinions and theories about the characters and the action. When I saw the video, I was a bit shocked at some things, but I also realized that many things were done in the way that I would have done them. The whole discussion/argument about the play being a comedy or a tragedy is one that comes to mind.
I thought while reading the piece that it was mostly a tragedy. The Ranevskys were losing their estate and cherry orchard. I had sympathy and pity for them. Then, I thought more about how it was played in the video, and what the narrator had to say. I also recalled the action in the play and realized that the action is external, and therefore, it depends on the way that characters are played by the actors. It was the acting, at least for me, which showed the tragic side of the play in the video. When Lopakhin is announcing at the end that he is now the owner of the estate and the orchard, the staging and directing was brilliant. The entire stage was silent, and the characters all stood around Lopakhin. The orchestra was playing a little bit also, and Lopakhin began his speech. He was somewhat hysterical, but also vindicated. Watching this scene is what convinced me that the play was more tragic than comic.

The actress who played Madame Ranevsky was a great actress. When she broke down about losing the estate with her brother Gayev, there were more tragic tones to the play. It was hard to decide exactly how I felt about the piece because there were the interruptions to let the narrator talk for awhile. Overall, I liked the version because it appeared very classic. By classic, I mean in the lines and the dark colors. I wish that I saw the actual orchard. I felt a little deprived because the orchard was the focus of the piece.

There were parts that were left out also that I wish I could have seen acted. In my opinion, the entire play should have been put on, and then afterwards, the narrator should have commented on it. They could have held flashbacks and then remind us of specific scenes that were played in a certain way, etc. The end was good when Firs was left alone. I like that part. He was on the couch and I wondered what was going to happen. When I read the play, I thought that he was going to die, but I was unsure about his character in the film. There was a lot of discussion about the sounds of the piercing harp string and the axe at the end when the orchard was being cut down. This discussion was very interesting because it helped me to understand the importance of the sounds before I gave my textual analysis.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

View all my reviews

Review: The Three Sisters

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The Three SistersBook Review
4 out of 5 stars to The Three Sisters, a Russian play published in 1900 by Anton Chekhov. What an introspective work, but then again, Chekhov is always at the top of this particular game, that is, presenting a slice of life we know dear to our hearts. In this one, perhaps his most famous play, three sisters are stuck in a small Russian village, but year to be back in Moscow. Circumstances prevent it. If you don’t know any Russian history, you might want to brush up on it before taking this one on. I struggle to recognize this book came about less than two decades before the famous Romanov family was executed. It feels so very different yet so much the same. I digress. This story is about choice. Or lack of choice. Or more appropriately denying yourself the ability to choose because you lack the confidence to do what you need to do. The three sisters, arguably quite different, might indeed by the same woman inside. Life is hard. Seeing what happens around you when someone else controls the minutes, can be difficult. And you feel stagnant. But when this happens, a writer can capture the beauty of something known as nothing. It’s the little things… that make life so interesting… and this book so wonderful.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

View all my reviews