How to Change a Life by Stacey Ballis- a 3/5 Star Review!

Eloise is devastated by the news of her favorite teacher passing. The event becomes bittersweet as it is at this beloved teacher’s funeral that she is reunited with her old friends Teresa and Lynne. Can their newly regained friendship survive the first major hurdle that comes their way or has time eroded away at their trust?

Eloise, Teresa, and Lynne met in grade school and bonded over their birthdays being right around the same time. Their reunion inspired them to make a bucket list before their upcoming fortieth birthday. It was fun to see the three of them create and execute their own personal bucket lists as well as have an incentive with the donation to their late teacher’s charity tied into it. Furthermore, it was interesting to see how each of them accomplished their tasks.

However, this book was a quick read-because I skimmed most of it. It relied heavily on adjectives and every detail about every dish that was thrown into the book. The adjective “amazing” was overused to the point of irritation. Additionally, the author seemed to rely heavily on dialogue between characters for character development. Yet the main character still came off as juvenile and shallow to me despite the other characters repeatedly inflating her ego.

I would recommend this book for those approaching forty or already over forty as the fortieth birthday was a central theme. Furthermore, I would also recommend this book for those foodie readers out there as the author went into great detail about every meal prepared in the book. There are even recipes in the back of the book.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for readers who may have shared the same feelings I had about adjective abuse and extreme detail. I also would not recommend this book for those who may be sensitive: there were sexually suggestive scenarios as well as foul language.

Please note: I was generously provided with a copy of this book electronically for free through Penguin’s First To Read program.

Plus One by Elizabeth Fama- a 3/5 Star Review

Sol is a Smudge, part of the Night sector of the population that had been divided into half. She is a lowly factory worker struggling to juggle school, work, her brother’s abandonment, and being the sole caretaker for her dying grandfather. After finding out that her brother, Ciele, has gotten married and is expecting a baby soon with his new wife, she sets on a mission to make sure that her grandfather can hold his great-granddaughter before he dies. Even if it is just once, she would sacrifice everything for this one dying wish. She knows the consequences, a long jail sentence and probably miss out on her grandfather’s death, but she is bullheaded and fiercely loyal. This mission takes far longer than expected and goes way off course, but it is a journey filled with revealing secrets and unexpected friendships.

I am really torn on how to feel about this book. On the one hand, the idea of the population being separated by Day and Night and the Night people’s brains being affected by it felt very similar to Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies. Especially when two doctors are the ones who let the secret out to the protagonist who then uses it to their advantage later. But on the other hand, it is a different concept than the popular dystopian concept that this was forced because the world is in destruction and one population must save themselves from the other population who is ruining the world. Yet, it is in response to a flu epidemic that threatened to wipe out society. However, after the epidemic seemed to resolve, no action was taken to try to combine the two populations again.

Another thing that I am torn about with this book is that I felt that the romance was sweet at times yet forced at other times. I liked that she and D’Arcy (although I mentally kept calling him Mr. Darcy) had met each other in the past over a shared interest without realizing it until later. But I did not like how frequently Sol tried to sacrifice herself for him, often behind his back, as it came across as more of a dramatic need to be tragic rather than smart. It did not really feel like they worked together throughout the book but that he was a forced sidekick so that there could be an element of romance. Their love story just did not ever feel cohesive.

Another issue I had was the amount of kidnapping that happened. It was not just one baby that got kidnapped, but two babies and a dying elderly person. There were too many things that were far too convenient to make the action sequences seem like tangible concepts. The scene that annoyed me the most was when she had to carry a baby, zipped up under her hoodie, on a hot and bumpy subway that did not cry or make any noises at all. Then she got off the subway and took off and there was not any mention of the infant. What hoodie is designed to mask a live baby simply by zipping up?

Aside from these negatives of the book, it was not so terrible that I could not finish. Actually, I wanted to finish the book. It was an adventure when I was not stumbling through the literary obstacles. I must also admit that the cover of the book is lovely and perfectly fits this novel.

The narrator, Julia Whelan, did well in the sense that Sol’s “voice” would have had that pessimistic angst that seems to be a part of the stereotypical teenage character. However, the main woe-is-me voice got on my nerves after awhile. Conversely, the parts where she had to speak French and even sing made the book more interesting.

I would recommend this book for readers who are really interested in technology as that was a major factor. I would also recommend this book for readers who may be fluent in or familiar with French as that was also a large part of the book.

I would not recommend this book for those who may be offended by foul language, sexually suggestive scenarios, betrayal, kidnapping, bullying, gang activity, and death.

Please note: I was able to download an audiobook copy of this file for free through Audiofile magazine’s Sync’s weekly (this was one of Week 7’s book options) free summer audiobook program via using the Overdrive app (the link is here).

Trouble by Samantha Towle (AudioCD)-a 3/5 Star Review!

Mia has only known pain from men. Her father, Oliver, was a successful surgeon as well as a vicious child abuser behind closed doors. Her boyfriend, Forbes, is also abusive and a successful lawyer. Forbes takes his heartless dominance to a point where Mia finally flees Boston, finally leaving her abusive past behind.

Jordan is immature and has sworn off love after seeing his dad fall apart twice from a broken heart. He sleeps with women but never stays long enough for feelings to develop. He has been careless with gambling and alcohol just as he has been careless with women. His best friend, Beth, is the only woman he trusts and is committed to, and she’s into women, so romance is perfectly impossible between them. Taking over his father’s hotel while he’s out of town, Beth sends a tourist his way. A tourist that may not ever leave.

This was my first audiobook experience and it had it’s ups and downs. On the one hand, I did like the narrator for Jordan, but on the other hand I did not care for the narrator for Mia. I did like that they had alternating narrations, but I did not like that it repeated the same events in some chapters. I liked how deep and dark this book got but I did not like how Jordan’s immature and shallow personality was redundantly beat into the reader’s head. I apologize for being cryptic but I do not want to give the spoiler away; I am not sure how I feel about the plot twist. I did not see it coming, however, I am not sure how to feel about it. It just seems a bit of a stretch, in my opinion.

I got this AudioCD in 2014 from Goodreads Giveaways. I admit, at first, I was a bit disappointed. I expected it to be a physical book, not an AudioCD. I had not read the details completely and since my CD player in my car did not work, I had set it aside and moved on. I went back to it and downloaded it to play on my phone while driving around, but I ended up preferring music rather than an audiobook.

Fortunately, I recently got a newer car with a working CD player. I also recently joined a book club and a lot of my fellow members were raving about listening to audiobooks while driving around. My first thought was to fish this audioCD out of the drawer I had stuffed it in and give it another try. Third time was the charm.

To those who may be offended or triggered, there were the following in this book: foul language, explicit sexual scenarios, graphic violence, physical abuse, bulimia, parental abandonment, divorce, death, and sexual assault.

Please note: An AudioCD of this book was provided for free by Goodreads Giveaways. I apologize that it has taken me over 3 years to finally listen through it. I do sincerely appreciate this as it has helped me learn that I DO actually enjoy audiobooks! I have since started another one and I am confident that I will keep checking them out.

Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch-

Mr. M is a famed author who is struggling with coming up with new best-seller books as he ages.  He has a significantly younger wife and enjoys having her on his arm at events.  His best-selling book, Payback, is based loosely on a true story of a vanishing of teacher Jan Landzaat.  Landzaat had an affair with a student (Laura) who moved on with a fellow student (Herman) and left him behind with his marriage, career, and ego on the rocks.

 

Herman is a tall, gangly, teen who is obsessed with making videos based on the human reaction to startling scenarios.  For example: the reaction of a teacher when a student has a seizure at her desk.  He also is patiently manipulative when he has a girlfriend in order to get closer to his heart’s true interest, Laura, which everyone in school knows is having an affair with Mr. Landzaat.  Years later, he lives in an apartment above Mr. M, who based a best-selling novel on his and Laura’s story,  and slowly sneaks into his life.

 

Dear Mr. M is a novel heralded as a psychological thriller and it started off in that manner.  This was the first novel by Herman Koch that I have had the opportunity to read.  I have been familiar with his name and I had already learned that he is known for creating detestable characters.  He did not disappoint in that aspect, nor did he disappoint with the surprising ending.  The main characters (Herman and Mr. M) are both narcissistic, as is revealed through each of their narrations that switch several times throughout the book.  Unfortunately, the speed from the launch of the book stalls as soon as the first perspective changes from “H” to “M”.  The only time that it moved fairly quickly was in H’s perspective.  The switching perspectives are further complicated by flashbacks.  There were several times that I had to go back to previous chapters to be reminded of events or characters.

The characters do have depth and the way in which all of the story lines finally connect is impressive.  It would have been a 5-star book, in my opinion, had it not been for the slow and verbose pace when it is in M’s perspective.

 

Items of potential sensitivity: there is foul language, stalking, and mild violence. 

 

Please note: an Advanced Reader Copy was generously provided for free from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.