Bethany's Readers' Advisory

The place to go for readers' advisory on books for children, teens, and adults

The Longest Night by Andria Williams March 23, 2016

Longest NightBased on true events that took place in Idaho Falls, Idaho in 1959-1961 as the military was experimenting with nuclear power, The Longest Night is a tale of family, trust, secrets, and the drama those things create. The story begins as Paul and Nat Collier and their two young daughters move to Idaho Falls. Paul has just completed training with the U.S. Army to be an operator at a small nuclear reactor 50 miles outside town. Nat, a free-willed California native, is adjusting to life raising two young girls in a small suburb taken over by military families. Both are figuring out how to navigate their new home, from uncomfortable dinner parties at the commanding officer’s house to the rumor mill generated by Army wives. When tension at Paul’s workplace leads to an unexpected deployment, Nat’s loneliness threatens to rip their relationship apart. Will their family survive when physical and emotional disasters strike?

This was a quiet drama set in an interesting period in recent history. It’s both comforting and frustrating to know that the joys and struggles of middle class Americans are essentially the same in 1959 as in 2016. The author’s note informs readers that Paul’s job and the disaster that occurs there are based in fact. I did a bit of research (read: Wikipedia) to find out more about Idaho Falls and its history and found myself wanting to reread parts of the book. Overall, I think the author did a nice job capturing that era and the life of a young Army wife stifled by social norms in a small town. I would recommend this book to adults who like historical fiction and family drama stories.

4 out of 5 stars

 

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff February 9, 2016

Fates and FuriesFrom the outside, it seems young married couple Lotto and Mathilde are the perfect couple. They are madly in love, attractive, and intelligent. But marriage is never perfect, no matter how much we want it to be. The first half of the book focuses on Lotto, born Lancelot, the golden child. Beneath his charisma, good looks, and “life of the party” personality, he harbors a deep mourning for his childhood and the adoration of his mother. The second half of the book reveals the truth about Mathilde’s life pre-Lotto. The unshakably supportive wife of a genius is not without secrets of her own. This story reassures us, in its own dark way, that even the most picture-perfect are flawed and prone to cracking under the pressures of life.

I have mixed feelings about this book. It was complex and well-written, but it had plenty of dark, uncomfortable moments. It dragged on in some scenes and didn’t give us enough in others. I didn’t care for the twist near the end and felt the story would have been fine, maybe even better, without it. Overall, though, I liked it and am still thinking about the characters days later. I would recommend this to adults who like drama and literary fiction.

3.5 out of 5 stars

 

Landline by Rainbow Rowell December 17, 2015

LandlineJust a few days before Christmas, Georgie tells her husband Neal the bad news. Even though they’ve already booked a trip back to his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska for Christmas, something came up at work and she can’t go. She knows it’s bad timing; she knows their marriage is in trouble. What she doesn’t know is how bad things are about to get. Neal goes to Omaha without her and takes their two daughters. He won’t answer his phone. Something is wrong and Georgie doesn’t know how to fix it. In a bizarre turn of events, Georgie discovers the cure for their relationship may be as simple as talking to Neal on the landline phone in her childhood bedroom. But is a little magic all they need… or even what they want?

I like Rainbow Rowell as an author. I LOVED her book Eleanor & Park. I like that she’s from Nebraska and got a little thrill every time I saw the word Omaha. (Close to my childhood home.) However, this book fell flat for me. I liked the flashbacks to the beginning of their relationship and the time travel-ish element, but the plot, the characters, and the ending were all a bit dry. This won’t be the last Rainbow Rowell book I read, but I probably won’t go out of my way to recommend it.

3 out of 5 stars

 

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes April 27, 2014

Me Before YouLouisa Clark is perfectly content with her small town life and her job working at the Buttered Bun cafe. When the restaurant closes, she is in trouble and has to find a new job quickly. She sees an ad to be a companion for a quadriplegic man, applies, and, despite a rocky interview, is hired. The first day is a disaster. Will, the man she is meant to care for, is young, good looking, and a complete jerk. She spends the first weeks on the verge of quitting, avoiding spending time with him at all costs. Before the accident, he had it all; Will traveled the world, was charismatic and a ladies’ man. Now he couldn’t do anything for himself and he is angry. Slowly, Lou and Will accept each other. When Lou discovers her true purpose for being hired is to change Will’s mind about wanting to go through with assisted suicide, she is determined to change his life into something worth living. What she doesn’t expect is that he’ll change hers, too.

This was such a fantastic book! It was recommended to me by several trusted sources and I finally broke down and read it. It is an untraditional love story that is tender, endearing, and heartbreaking. I was thinking of the characters long after the story ended and pondering how love can be found in unexpected places.

5 out of 5 stars

 

The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty April 23, 2014

Hypnotists Love StoryEllen is a hypnotist, helping people work through all kinds of problems. When she starts dating Patrick, a widower with an eight-year-old son, he confesses he has a problem of his own. He has a stalker. His ex-girlfriend refuses to let go of their relationship and texts him, calls him, and follows him around town. Rather than being scared away by this news, Ellen is intrigued. The stalker, Saskia, otherwise sounds like a perfectly normal, professional woman. But when Saskia is willing to anything to get Patrick back, whose love story will it be?

I enjoyed the unusual premise of this book. It definitely was not the usual romance/family drama story. I liked how it alternated between Ellen’s and Saskia’s points of view. I really began to empathize with Saskia as the story went on; she was both crazy and authentic.

5 out of 5 stars

 

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty April 22, 2014

What Alice ForgotAlice wakes up on the floor with a crowd of concerned people standing over her. When she realizes she’s passed¬† out at the gym, she is so confused. She doesn’t work out. And she’s pregnant. Why is everyone acting like she’s not making sense?

When her sister arrives at the hospital, things get even more confusing. Alice knows she’s 29 years old, has a loving husband at home, and is pregnant with their first child. Her sister gently breaks the news- Alice is 39, is on the brink of a nasty divorce, and has three kids at home. When Alice gets home from the hospital, she tries to regain her memory of how things came to be. But does she want to remember the past 10 years when things are so different… and wrong?

As I said in an earlier post, I’ve fallen in love with this author. This book was my favorite of the three I’ve read. Alice’s memories of her life when things were happy and carefree had me crying with regret for the way things had deteriorated for her. I wondered how I would feel having woken up with no memory of the past decade. Would I want to go back to the person I was back then? The answer is no for me, but you will desperately want it for Alice. This book is highly recommended for women who like realistic fiction and family drama.

5 out of 5 stars

 

You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz April 20, 2014

You Should Have KnownGrace has an ideal life. She lives in New York City with her pediatric oncologist husband and her beloved son. Her son goes to the same private school she went to as a child. She has her own therapy practice and has just written a book. Her book, slated to be a best seller, is called You Should Have Known; it tells women they should recognize red flags in a partner before they commit to a life with him. So imagine Grace’s surprise when a number of things happen one day. First, she gets a message from her son’s school that a student’s parent has died. Second, another mother leaves her a message that the parent was murdered. Third, and most surprising, she realizes that she doesn’t know where her husband is and can’t find him, even when the police ask her to. As Grace’s life starts to fall apart, she realizes she should have taken the advice she thought should be so obvious to her clients.

I was really looking forward to this book. The mystery sounded so intriguing. The plot was interesting with many surprises along the way. I just didn’t really care about the main character. If Grace had been more likeable, I probably would have been crying alongside her. It was a decent book, but it was no Gone Girl.

3 out of 5 stars

 

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

Husbands SecretCecelia Fitzpatrick, wife and mother of three, is digging around in the attic for something when she runs across a sealed envelope. The writing on the envelope is her husband’s, the contents to be read in the event of his death. What’s a good wife to do? Her husband’s bizarre reaction to her discovery eventually spurs her to read the letter and her orderly life spirals out of control as a result. Rachel and Tess, although they barely know Cecelia, find their lives affected as well. The reader must wonder, how well do you really know your spouse?

Okay, I am currently obsessed with this author. This book has been so popular that the waiting list to borrow it from the library was a mile long. I happened across another book by her and decided to read it in the meantime. The characters in her books are just so ordinary, so completely relatable, that I fell in love with them. That said, I thought this book was the weakest out of the three I’ve read by Moriarty. I still liked it, just not as much as the other two, The Hypnotist’s Love Story and What Alice Forgot. Still, it’s an enjoyable read and I would recommend it to adult females who like family drama with a little mystery.

 

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls August 14, 2013

Silver StarIn 1970, twelve-year-old Bean and her fifteen-year-old sister, Liz, figure their mother has just left for another one of her trips to find herself. She left them money to buy enough pot pies for a couple weeks and everything is fine for awhile. When she doesn’t return after a month, the girls start to wonder. When Bean comes home to find a police car in the driveway, Liz comes up with a plan. They spend the last of their money on two bus tickets to Virginia to visit their uncle.

When they arrive in Virginia, their reclusive uncle reluctantly welcomes them into his home. Bean meets nearby relatives and learns the truth about her father; she fits in at their new school while Liz struggles to find her place. For extra spending money, the girls find a job babysitting and doing odd jobs for powerful mill foreman, Jerry Maddox. When something happens that changes Liz forever, Bean realizes she must be the one to step up and take charge for the first time.

This story was a wonderful coming-of-age story. This is my first time reading a Jeannette Walls book and it won’t be my last. I would recommend this to those who like realistic fiction.

5 out of 5 stars

 

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani July 11, 2013

Yonahlossee Riding CampThe story begins as fifteen-year-old Thea Atwell’s father drops her off at the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls. Thea has been sent away from the only home she has ever known, a perfect swath of Florida land, her pony, Sasi, and her twin brother, Sam. The year is 1930 and the county is in the midst of the Great Depression; however, the Atwell family’s citrus farms continue to be prosperous and Thea finds herself around other girls from wealthy families where social status is of the utmost importance. As Thea navigates the complicated social structure and feels abandoned by her family, she takes an intense interest in the headmaster’s family and tries to forget the terrible situation that caused her expulsion from her family and home.

I loved this book. It was full of drama, passion, bits of history, family struggles, sexual awakening, and the emotional roller coaster of being a teenager. The story of why Thea was sent away is told in flashbacks – a plot device I enjoy¬† if it’s done well. The story has some mature content; I would recommend to older teens or adults.

5 out of 5 stars

 

 
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