Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Tuesday's Book Bag: New Releases for 9/6.

September is clearly a good month for new books, and the 6th brings four--that's right, four--new novels! They are a mixed bag of stories and drama - check them out below:

In FAULTLINES, at 20, Jordy Cline's life should be just beginning. Instead, it seems as if he's looking at a long period in jail and a lifetime of guilt. It all begins when his mother, Sandy, receives the call every mother dreads: there's been a car accident. Jordy and his cousin, Travis, were thrown from the vehicle. Both boys are seriously injured and even worse, it looks like they were drinking. Local law enforcement seems to think Jordy was drinking and driving--a natural assumption given his history of underage drinking and Travis' usual role as the designated driver--but Jordy is insistent that he wasn't. Suddenly, Sandy finds herself fighting for her son's survival and dealing with her sister Jenna's anger over Jordy's role in the crash. This is an intricate and crazily plotted book, filled with emotional characters and various plot twists. Some of the twists are exciting and completely unexpected, making the story more than just a family drama and almost turning it into a thriller at some points. A few twists toward the end struck me as rather transparent and easily guessed. A lot of the plot points are a little outlandish and far-fetched, but it does make the book a fairly quick and exciting read. It's not exactly fun, as the subject matter is pretty heavy and horrible, dealing with the sort of topics that are hard to read as a parent. Overall, the story is an intriguing one, which will keep you guessing and reading. It speaks well to the legacy parents leave, both from a biological and environmental standpoint. It represents the power of the good ol' boy system of the South as well and is a strong tale depicting the bonds of loyalty, small town politics, and the power and pain of family. It's both emotional and enjoyable. There were a few nagging plot points that bugged me, but it was still a good, quick read. 3 stars

Next up, in LEAVE ME, Maribeth is an overworked mother of four-year-old twins. But Maribeth is so busy she doesn't even realize she's had a heart attack. Once out of the hospital, Maribeth is shocked to realize that her mother and husband seem clueless when it comes to taking care of her (and in many ways, the household). Maribeth feels overwhelmed and frustrated. Angry at her husband, Jason, she packs a bag and flees her husband and the twins, basically starting her life over in another city. Once there, Maribeth makes new friends and starts a search for her own birth mother. But obviously she has left behind unresolved issues in New York, such as her husband and family. (Minor issue, right?) There were honestly times reading this book that I felt my own heart hurting, both from Forman's realistic description of Maribeth's cardiac attack, as well as from the stressful scenario she's in. Forman does an excellent job of conveying the pressure Maribeth is under and the frustration she feels in her life--overwhelmed, alone, trapped, desperate. What mother hasn't felt that way at some point, and truly, what mother hasn't wanted to run away at times? My issue with this book is that Maribeth actually does run away. It's really hard to believe she'd actually leave her kids - not for a week or two - but for a good chunk of time (and taking a sizable chunk of her family's savings with her). But, while I really didn't agree with all of her choices (they didn't truly seem realistic), I have to admit, I found myself liking the book in spite of them. The life Maribeth creates for herself away from her family is unique and readable, and her world away is compelling. My only beef: should a woman really have to leave to try to get her spouse to appreciate all she does? I am not totally sure I agree with the message. Overall, this book is different. It's not your typical contemporary fiction, but it's certainly worth reading. 3.5 stars (and leaves you thinking).

In the romance, WHO'S THAT GIRL?, Edie's life is going along just fine, she supposes. Until the fateful day of Jack and Charlotte's wedding, when everything changes. Edie is caught in a particular transgression with the groom, Jack, and immediately everyone blames her, without knowing the full story. Since Jack, Charlotte, and Edie work together, Edie finds life at work unbearable and winds up taking an assignment from her boss in her hometown of Nottingham. There she meets famous actor (think "Game of Thrones" famous) Elliot Owen, for whom Edie must ghost write his autobiography. But things only seem to go from bad to worse, as Elliot seems a pompous, self-absorbed actor and Edie's sister and father don't exactly seem thrilled she's living back home again. Not to mention she can't show her face on social media (or in public) due to Charlotte's revengeful friends, who all hate her... will things ever go right for Edie again? Edie's quest for love is just one of the book's central themes. In many ways, she's on a journey to find herself, and only in doing so, can find love. My biggest beef was how the adults in this book acted like bullying schoolchildren. So, Edie's transgression is really so bad that she's completely ostracized and the subject of intense in-life and cyber shaming and scrutiny? It seems like high school gone really wrong. Her "friend" Louis is just awful; are people really like this?! It's a commentary on social media and cyber bullying, perhaps, but also just terrible and hard to believe at times. These are grown adults! I found myself a little too appalled and couldn't believe grown people would act this way. It's really sad if they do, honestly... However, once you get further past the wedding day and more into Nottingham, the novel picks up. Edie isn't always the most enjoyable of characters, but I did like her, as I liked Elliot. Parts of the book are just downright funny; I actually found myself laughing out loud. Edie's friends from school are particularly hilarious and a good fit for her. Her boss, too, even if he falls a bit on the dramatic side. Overall, while I found some of the characters and plot points frustrating on this one, much of it was balanced out by the charm and humor of the novel. 3.5 stars.

In our final release--also with "girl" in the title--we switch to a thriller, and in my opinion, the best of the bunch: THE PERFECT GIRL. Zoe Maisey is a genius: a piano prodigy with an amazingly high IQ. She is also a killer. When she was fourteen, Zoe was responsible for the death of three fellow teens. Now, she and her mother have started over (their "Second Chance Life") and Zoe is playing her first concert in her new life, along with her stepbrother, Lucas. But her performance is disrupted and Zoe flees the concert hall. And, by the end of the night, Zoe's mother is dead. Zoe is alone, forced to confront a new world without her protector. Plus, who is responsible for her mother's death? This book grabbed me immediately; it sucks you in from the start and doesn't let you go until it finishes, when you're exhilarated and exhausted. It's a fascinating, easy-to-read thriller with short chapters that tell us about the events surrounding the timeframe after Zoe's concert, but also going back into the past via flashbacks from the characters. We hear from Zoe, her aunt, Tessa, Tessa's husband, Richard, and Sam, Zoe's lawyer from her "previous" life. Their narratives weave flawlessly into a tense and sometimes psychologically creepy tale that has you sitting spellbound, turning pages frantically, wanting to know what happens. In theory, the action happens over a very short period of time, as Maria's killer is unveiled, but the ability to go into the past with the characters extends the time and makes you tensely await each action. Macmillan's characters are nuanced and deep--each with their own quirks, flaws, and motivations. Beyond the actual plotline of murder, there is a deep thread of discord and familial drama and angst running among our characters, who are certainly a flawed bunch. The book makes you question and ponder many things, including the topics of forgiveness, loyalty, marriage, and what really makes a family. I won't forget either the exciting story or the characters themselves for some time. Overall, while there were certainly a few things to quibble with with this one, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a tense but enjoyable thriller to escape into and certainly well worth the thread. 4 stars

A great group of books to start out the month!
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