Blogmas · Reviews

Home for Christmas by Holly Chamberlin {Review}

Red Christmas ornament on white background - cover of Home for Christmas by Holly Chamberlin

Solid 2 stars. 

This is my least favorite 2018 read.  I really really hate giving less than 3 stars since the author wrote a book! That’s more than I’ve ever done. I only gave 2 stars to one other book this year – the third in a far-too-macho end of the world series. At the same time, I realize that my 2 star book might be someone else’s 5 star book and I need to review on if I liked it or not.

I just could not connect with the main character. She was too much – too sad, too pushy, too timid, too everything. It was basically an entire book about her trying to get her kids to define her and then suddenly they make all her dreams come true. At one point a daughter says “Why would we ever spend Christmas anywhere else?” (okay, that’s a paraphrase, but you get the point.) and it was just too cutesy. And that’s one example of many, many, many too sweet moments that came out of nowhere. 

I think a lot of my issue stems from the disconnect between me and the protagonist. Which is a rare thing for me – I regularly read about all kinds of people in all kinds of different situations, points of life, etc. I mean, I read books on alien planets or novels of magic which is the opposite of my life. I’ve been thinking about it over the past few days and I think it boils down to my wanting to read strong women characters. Even in the romance I read, the women characters are strong women. They may be naive and fall in love in like 3 days, but they’re generally not weepy or morose. I’m morose enough, thanks. 

I will say that, even though I hate her transformation is triggered by a man, I enjoyed the romance sub-plot in this. They have a history together instead of being complete insta-love, which is refreshing. 

I’m probably not going to read the other books in this series, to be honest.

~Sarah

Blogoween · Reviews

I Remember You: A Ghost Story {Review}

 

Book cover for I Remember You: A Ghost Story

My favorite thing about reading a novel in translation is that not all words are translatable and you have to stumble through them the best you can. I don’t speak Icelandic so it was fun to look up pronunciations for names of towns and people. Don’t ask me to say them out loud, though, because I will fail.

I really liked this book. It’s not really a thriller but it’s a steadily unfolding story that has twists and turns and is pretty engaging. Even if you guess one (or some) of the twists, it’s still an interesting story. The only issue I had was that one of the twists was telegraphed pretty early on, but the reveal was solid, so it was fine. It’s fun to read a novel where being religious isn’t the norm, but isn’t completely weird either.

I would say this is a solid October read if you’re looking for something to make you uneasy but not terrified. The location is awesome – part of the novel takes place in an abandoned community in northern Iceland. The language is vivid, even though it’s a translation.

A warning, though: there’s violence against children mentioned. Nothing graphic at all, and most of the novel isn’t graphic, but it’s mentioned.

-Sarah-

 

Reading · Reviews

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate {Review}

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

I’d say a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

I knew about Georgia Tann (thanks Unsolved Mysteries!!), but this book really drives the awfulness home. It also had tidbits that I didn’t know, so that was interesting. The only issue I had with her section was that it was unrelenting horror. Which was the point, so I guess that’s a good thing.

To be honest, it really doesn’t carry that sense of loss and pain into Rill’s adult life. A second book following her into adulthood and her search for family would be great. The book seemed to close up with a rush and left a lot to wonder about. I just really wish we had more information about everything. This is so hard to write without spoliers!

The other main character, Avery, is a bit annoying but her story is okay. I would have liked to spend more time on her search instead of her worrying about if she wants to be a politician. Also, her obsession with people knowing her last name and treating her differently made me laugh. Your daddy may be a senator but did he play football, Avery? It’s a real thing, sure, but her attitude about it struck me as funny.

This novel covers a very important (and hushed up) time in history. Joan Crawford adopted her children from Georgia Tann. People should read it, then read more about the whole shenanigan, and then give past US authorities some serious side eye.

Before We Were Yours has some weaknesses. Avery is a snoozefest and I was left dying for information about what happened when the ‘orphans’ became adults. And why did Big Trent hate his dad so much? Why is Jonah given such a weird backstory? But its strengths greatly outweigh the weaknesses. Wingate hits every awful thing that could have happened to a Tann child and I don’t think I’ll ever forget reading Rill’s story. Read it.

-Sarah-