Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Sawbones Book Review

Sawbones by Melissa Lenhardt

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When Dr. Catherine Bennett is wrongly accused of murder, she knows her fate likely lies with a noose unless she can disappear. Fleeing with a bounty on her head, she escapes with her maid to the uncharted territories of Colorado to build a new life with a new name. Although the story of the murderess in New York is common gossip, Catherine's false identity serves her well as she fills in as a temporary army doctor. But in a land unknown, so large and yet so small, a female doctor can only hide for so long.

Review by Brittany:

My first interest in this book came from the gorgeous cover and, of course, the blurb.

The book takes place primarily after the Civil War, so late 1800s. There is something about female doctors in this time period that intrigues me. I recently read another book that centered on a female doctor in the early 1900s, and this one had the same sort of grungy feel to it. There are a lot of medical procedural references that made me cringe in their gruesomeness because of the way medicine was at that time, but I found it all extremely fascinating.

As the blurb indicates, Laura (Catherine) is not a character who has a life of ease. From the beginning of the book, she is struggling to overcome the adversity that comes with being a female physician, along with the trials and tribulations that come from being a fugitive, guilt or not. On her travels, she also deals with Indian attacks, some of which are described in brutal detail.

This book has a lot of witty dialogue between characters, an aspect I love. The relationship between Laura and William is one built on dialogue, and Lenhardt did a fantastic job of building that relationship. And as far as heroes go, it's hard not to love William. He is amusing and dashing, often clever and funny, and the relationship that builds between them is one that I loved reading about. So many books today base relationships on the physical aspects, so it was lovely to read about a relationship that develops because of dialogue and a true building of the relationship.

It does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, basically guaranteeing that I'm going to be reading the next one - although that wasn't much of a question anyway. This book is not a happy, lovely tale that wraps up nicely. It is gritty and brutal sometimes, so if you're looking for a happy ending, this may not be the one for you. However, the reading experience was fantastic, and the development of the characters made me a huge fan. I'm looking forward to the next one!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Me Before You

By: Kristen

If there’s one thing of which I’m certain, it’s that there are countless opportunities to fall in love, and never ending ways to show it. Me Before You only reiterates the depths of our ability to care for someone, and what true love will drive us to do. With the movie adaptation premiering this summer, I was drawn to this book’s romantic ambience from the start.

The novel by Jojo Moyes tells the tale of young woman, Louisa Clark, and her journey undertaking a position to care for Will Traynor, a man who became a quadriplegic in a tragic accident. Louisa is a homebody, comfortable yet quirky in her lifestyle, and perfectly happy living her small town life, while Will would rather end his than be stuck living in a less than mediocre position, restricted to his wheelchair and the aid of others.

As the story progresses, Louisa finds herself more concerned with Will’s well-being, and constantly looking for ways to show him there can be life beyond his trauma. She finds small ways he can be independent and does her best to introduce him to the beauty still left in the world, not realizing the greatest gift she’s giving him is herself.

Me Before You reveals a deep kind of love, the kind that inexplicably connects the soul and makes us strive to be better than who we were before. It shows how we don’t always fall in love at the right time, or in the perfect situation, but rather when it’s meant to happen. More than that, Moyes sends an imperative message to her readers that it’s never too late to change your life and become what you might have been. Out fates are not set in stone, but our choices, our ability to move forward determines who we become and what we’re capable of offering others.

This story is a must read not only for romantics, but for anyone who wants to be reminded that life is, in fact, what you make of it. And there’s not a moment to be wasted.

Watch the trailer and grab some Kleenex!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Another Woman Book Review

Another Woman by Penny Vincenzi


The night before her lavish wedding, Cressida Forrest went to bed serene and happy. By morning she had vanished - without apparent cause, and without a trace. Shocked, anxious, and uncomprehending, the two families face a long day of revelations, as a complex, fragile web of sexual, marital, and financial secrets is ripped apart by Cressida's disappearance.

Review by Brittany:

At this point, it's really no surprise that I'm a fan of Vincenzi. I always love her books because they are well-written, with beautiful sentences and fantastic plot lines. Her supporting characters are always as fabulous and developed as her main characters, making her books just full of great story.

What set this one apart from others I've read by this author is how the "main" character - Cressida - is not actually in the book. The book shifts point-of-view between many different characters, but Cressida is never one. Her actions spawn the entire story, but the reader never gets a glimpse into her head to understand her or her motives. Instead, the reader follows along as the other characters piece together what happened and why Cressida disappeared the night before her wedding.

One thing I loved about learning about Cressida through other people is the biased view of her. Everyone has a different opinion about her, and each other character can add a little piece to the Cressida puzzle. As more clues are discovered, the characters interpret them in different ways. Even by the end of the book, I still wasn't sure exactly what I felt about Cressida.

There was also a surprising amount of dysfunction throughout each character's life. Extramarital affairs, failing businesses, mistreated spouses, questionable paternity, and a suicide attempt are all just part of the tangled plot lines in this book. But I loved it. Vincenzi is able to develop her characters and add these conflicts without it all seeming like too much. I think it worked well in this book, and I definitely recommend.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Time to Kill Book Review

A Time to Kill by John Grisham

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The life of a ten-year-old girl is shattered by two drunken and remorseless young men. The mostly white town of Clanton in Ford County, Mississippi, reacts with shock and horror at the inhuman crime. Until her black father acquires an assault rifle and takes justice into his own outraged hands.

For ten days, as burning crosses and the crack of sniper fire spread through the streets of Clanton, the nation sits spellbound as young defense attorney Jake Brigance struggles to save his client's life - and then his own.

Review by Brittany:

Despite the overwhelming popularity of both this book and author, this is the first time I've read anything by Grisham. This is also the first book I've read that is so strongly centered around race, so it was an interesting read for me.

I really enjoyed this book. I can see why Grisham is a favorite of many readers because he kept me hooked throughout the whole 600+ pages. The story line and major plot points were a bit hairy, but I loved reading about how controversial the case was.

Grisham wrote some great characters for this book. Jake Brigance is a fairly inexperienced lawyer who wants this case so bad he can taste it. The fear gives him stomach issues and he often feels like he's not sure what he's doing, but he gets a ragtag team together to help pull him through. Lucien was his mentor back in his heyday, although now Lucien just stays drunk and offers sometimes questionable advice to Jake. Ellen is an Ole Miss law student who offers to clerk on the case because she just can't stand to see anyone get the death penalty. Harry Rex is the foulest divorce lawyer around, but he's determined to offer his services to try to pull Jake through. This team is often concerning and sometimes irresponsible, but they were all fantastic characters. And Jake, despite his easy access to sexy law clerk Ellen, stays faithful to his wife who he loves.

The book doesn't focus as much on the case as it does on the effects of the case on the community and the characters involved. Carl Lee's possible guilt sends the Ku Klux Klan running to Clanton to intimidate and hordes of blacks from other counties to show their support. Jurors watch these things going on while they try to determine if Carl Lee, as a father, was somehow right in his actions.

The tension is there, the suspense is there, and the fabulously quirky characters make this book - despite the tumultuous content - a bit of a fun read. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and definitely recommend.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Sharing You Book Review

Sharing You by Molly McAdams

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Twenty-three year old Kamryn Cunningham has left behind a privileged, turbulent past for the anonymity of small-town life. Busy with her new bakery, she isn't interested in hook-ups or fix-ups. Then she meets the very sexy, very married Brody. Though she can't deny the pull between them, Kamryn isn't a cheater and she's not good at sharing.

Twenty-six year old Brody Saco may be married, but he isn't happy. when his girlfriend got pregnant six years ago, he did the right thing...and he's been paying for it ever since. Now, his marriage is nothing but a trap filled with hate, manipulation, and blame - the remnants of a tragedy that happened five years earlier. While he's never broken his vows, he can't stop the flood of emotion that meeting Kamryn unlocks.

Brought together by intense heat that is impossible to resist, Brody and Kamryn share stolen moments and nights that end too soon. But is their love strong enough to bear the weight of Kamryn's guilt? And is Brody strong enough to confront the pain of the past and finally break free of his conniving wife?

Review by Brittany:

I'm a little torn on my feelings about this book. There were parts of it that I enjoyed, but there were also parts that I didn't.

I have gotten a bit tired of authors using gratuitous sex to fill pages and to sell books, and I think this author did some of that. The relationship between Kamryn and Brody is basically only about the nights they sleep together, and the reader gets that in detail. But I felt like I never really understood what it was that made them want to be together. They fell in love at first sight and then proceeded to start an affair, without there being any development of an actual intimate, loving relationship. I spent the entire book not really understanding their intense desire to be together.

I also think the author had to try too hard to make characters likable or to justify their actions. She wrote Brody's wife in such a way that she's almost a monster, which is supposed to make the reader sympathetic and understanding to Brody's choice to sleep with someone else. Kamryn constantly focuses on her guilt and thinks about how she's not "that" girl, but she never does anything to change it. When time goes by without Brody leaving his wife, she then has the gall to be upset with him about it. Brody stays with his wife because she "needs help", but the whole thing just didn't quite sit right with me. I felt like the author was trying too hard to get readers to empathize and not blame her characters for being adulterous. Even the minor characters cheer them on.

I do think this author has a certain way of writing her female relationships that works. Kinlee, Kamryn's best friend, was probably my favorite character. Scenes in which those two interacted were my favorites, and there were often times when I laughed out loud reading some of the dialogue. McAdams does not write in the sophisticated way some of my favorite authors do, but she has a certain knack for humor and female relationships that I could appreciate.

Overall, I think this book could have been executed better. I didn't hate it, but I also didn't love it. I think McAdams could have benefited from fearlessly writing characters who weren't so full of excuses for their behavior.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Windfall Book Review

Windfall by Penny Vincenzi


Cassia Fallon has been married to her doctor husband for seven years when her godmother leaves her a fortune. She is determined to be sensible, to stay in control. Suddenly, for the first time in her life, she is able to do exactly as she likes.

She starts to question her marriage, her past, her present and future. The money gives her confidence, and her husband Edward can only look on resentfully as she resumes her medical career, sheds some of her domestic burdens, and re-forms old relationships - one of them of a most dangerous kind.

But where did her legacy really come from and why? Too soon the windfall has become a corrupting force. One that Cassia cannot resist...

Review by Brittany:

As a Vincenzi fan, I know that I'm going to love any one of her books. They are all well-written, with delicious prose and characters that I can lose myself in. One of her major talents lies in never having supporting characters, but instead she writes a full cast of main characters. I never fail to get enthralled into the lives of all the characters, and this novel was no exception.

What sets this one apart for me is the implication that money can so drastically change the life of a person. Cassia starts out a semi-happily married woman, playing the role mostly of mother and wife. She helps Edward run his general medical practice, serving in mostly a secretarial capacity. It is clear to the reader from the beginning that there is some resentment in the relationship as Cassia makes it clear that she desires to still practice; however, Edward does not let her play a medical role at the practice. Despite this, Cassia is fairly happy.

Once she receives the money, new opportunities open up for her. She meets with the Chair at the hospital she studied at, setting up a research Chair but also feeling out the opportunity to practice again. She gets offered the chance to work at some low-income women's birth control clinics, thereby starting her career. This opportunity, while fulfilling for Cassia, causes strain in her marriage and, by default, strain in her relationship with her children.

While Cassia is the main character and the monetary gain mostly influences her, the choices she begins to make also affect those around her. In this way, Vincenzi reels the reader into different characters' lives, tying it all together while still maintaining character individuality.

I felt like the drastic changes that came with Cassia's money could still apply today, although the book takes place in 1935. I loved this one, as I usually do with Vincenzi, and definitely recommend to fans of this author or genre.

Notable quotes:

Why was it, how was it that everything he ever said managed to imply a past, a shared past, tugging her back to it, disturbing her hard-won tranquility.

Such tiny threads, our lives hang on...