Bethany's Readers' Advisory

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

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

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In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume January 23, 2016

In the Unlikely EventThe story begins in 1987 as the main character, Miri, travels back to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey. In the early 1950’s, 15-year-old Miri and her friends and family experience a series of tragic and unexplained events that set the course for the rest of her life. That year, Miri gets her first glimpse of love, loss, hope, and broken promises. The stories of many Elizabeth residents unfold alongside Miri’s and allow the reader to experience the fear and uncertainty of this tumultuous time in New Jersey’s history.

It had been quite a while since I’d read a Judy Blume book. After the trauma that resulted from reading Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret as a young teen, I was wary. However, the story sounded interesting so I took the leap. The concept was good, but the execution was lacking. There were way too many characters introduced, too many stories to keep straight. My opinion of the story improved when I read the author’s note and found that the plane crashes, which I originally thought bordered on absurd, actually happened in real life. I suppose I would recommend this book to people who grew up in the 50’s and would appreciate the cultural references. (For example, why would someone put off having a pregnancy test to avoid killing a rabbit? I had to look it up. Weird.)

3 out of 5 stars

 

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood December 31, 2015

Filed under: adult fiction,dystopian fiction,Uncategorized — Bethany @ 10:08 pm
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Heart Goes LastThe economy has plummeted and things on the east coast are dire. Married couple Charmaine and Stan, once hardworking newlyweds fixing up their first home, are living in their car. Stan sleeps in the driver’s seat with the key in the ignition so they can quickly get away in case of trouble, of which there is much. Charmaine is bolstering their meager existence with tips from her bar job. Stan does the only thing left and seeks out his conman brother to repay a loan. Just when things seem most bleak, Charmaine sees the commercial on TV for the Positron Project, a social experiment in which people sign away their troubles for the promise of steady employment and a clean, safe home of their own. She and Stan sign up right away. Even the thought of regular showers is worth giving up their freedom at this point.

Everything seems fine at the beginning. The couple has a home of their own, some money to buy the essentials, and fulfilling jobs. The only catch is that they must share. Every other month is spent apart, living in a prison, while another couple uses the house. The system is set up to be economical and efficient. Only when attractions begin to brew with their “alternates” (the other couple who shares their house) do Stan and Charmaine realize they may have gotten in too deep.

I read Margaret Atwood’s famous book The Handmaid’s Tale this fall and LOVED it. This book began with a similar theme, the aftermath of a breakdown of society, the loss of freedoms previously taken for granted. I really liked the beginning of the story with Stan and Charmaine cheerfully signing their lives away to a social experiment. The idea of Consilience, with the alternating months between the home and prison, the job assignments, the carefully controlled social interactions, were fascinating. But then it got weird. The whole sexual thing was unsettling. Eventually things went from weird to goofy. I was interested in the story throughout, but I wish it would have gone a different direction. I would recommend this to adults who like dystopian futures and have a dark sense of humor.

3 out of 5 stars

 

The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon December 27, 2015

Filed under: adult fiction,adult mystery,Uncategorized — Bethany @ 11:50 pm
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Night SisterIt’s 2013. Piper gets a phone call in the middle of the night. At first she’s worried it’s bad news about her very pregnant sister, Margot. But the news is about her childhood friend, Amy, whom she’s barely talked to since the summer of 1989. Amy has allegedly killed her family and then herself in her childhood home at the Tower Motel in London, Vermont. Margot called Piper to tell her about the one clue left behind, a photo scrawled with the words 29 ROOMS, a message only Margot and Piper understand.

What follows is an eerie tale that passes along the dark secrets of the Tower Motel from sisters Rose and Sylvie in 1955 to Amy, Piper, and Margot’s grisly discovery in 1989 to the horror in 2013.

This was a page-turner! The story was creepy but not terribly scary. The transitions between the different timelines were smooth and easy to follow. I was impressed with the writing and plan to check out other stories by this author. I would recommend this to adults who like mysteries. Just don’t read it alone at night.

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

 

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd December 11, 2015

Filed under: adult fiction,adult historical fiction,Uncategorized — Bethany @ 5:18 pm

Invention of WingsSarah Grimke is a smart, opinionated girl living in early nineteenth century Charleston, South Carolina. Her wealthy family owns a number of slaves, including Handful, daughter of the family’s seamstress. On Sarah’s eleventh birthday, Handful, whom the family calls Hetty, is given to Sarah as her maid. Sarah tries to release ownership of Handful and is denied. This begins a lifetime of fighting against the institution of slavery in her home and later the country. The stories of Sarah and Handful are told in alternating chapters throughout much of their lives as they both strengthen their bond and move into their separate roles in society; Sarah, born into privilege but a slave to her gender role, and Handful, born as a slave and free only to dream of what is outside the walls that surround her.

Wow, this was a powerful and thought-provoking book! Even more so when I read the author’s note at the end and found out Sarah and her sister Angelina were based on real people, early advocates for abolition and women’s rights. Sarah, Angelina, Handful, and Handful’s mother Charlotte were well-developed characters who changed the world in big and small ways with their daring and spunk. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction and strong female characters.

5 out of 5 stars

 

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson July 19, 2015

Filed under: adult fiction,adult mystery — Bethany @ 11:59 am
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Kind Worth KillingHave you ever had someone in your life you wish would just disappear? Ted Severson is drinking in an airport bar when he is approached by a beautiful stranger. In a drunken attempt to flirt, he tells this woman he just discovered his wife is cheating on him with the contractor building their new home. In a story reminiscent of Patricia Highsmith’s classic Strangers on a Train, the stranger, Lily, suggests he kill his wife and even volunteers to help him. At first Ted laughs off the idea as a joke, but the more he thinks about it, the more he likes the idea. As the plot thickens, it becomes apparent Ted’s wife is not the only one whose life is on the line.

Wow. This was one of those “stay up all night, have to finish my book” books. I blew through this book in two days and haven’t stopped thinking about it since. The Kind Worth Killing is a dark tale of lies, murder, and revenge. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes murder mysteries.

5 out of 5 stars

 

 
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