Book Review: Here and Gone by Haylen Beck

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★ ★ ★

Here and Gone is an unsettling and intense thriller that I wanted to love. The premise was intriguing, the pace set to keep me questioning and interested—and while I liked it, but at times I was skimming details that didn’t add to the story. While I am not fond of multiple POVs, I thought it was fitting with this story, reading the events through Audra, Danny, and Sean’s eyes build up throughout as it unfolded.

I was rooting for all of them, and couldn’t help but feel for each of them. I thought Here and Gone was well-written, fast-paced, and engaging. I am only left wondering about one character, but I thought it was a well-rounded ending. It’s a short, quick read that I finished in two sittings, and I will be on the lookout for more published by the author.

Synopsis 

It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she’s pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they’re gone than she must have done something with them…

Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return.

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published June 20th 2017 by Crown Publishing Group

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Book Review: Stirring Up Fun with Food by Sarah Michelle Gellar

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As a longtime fan of Sarah Michelle Gellar from back in her Buffy the Vampire days, I was thrilled to receive a copy of her newest cookbook, Stirring Up Fun with Food, published by Grand Central Life & Style. I love her enthusiasm when it comes to being in the kitchen as a family, and introducing her children to food in creative ways while keeping it healthy and simple. Organized by month, there are recipes for every occasion and theme, so the possibilities are endless and kid-friendly.

In January’s section, you’ll find quiche cupcakes that are light and flavorful, perfect for on-the-go during the busy week. March offers a delicious recipe for veggie egg rolls to make-at-home rather than ordering take-out—a little more involved, but a good way to get kids in the kitchen. In June, you can prepare coconut chicken fingers that not only the little ones will love, but adults will, too—paired well with a red pepper jelly or sweet chili sauce.

Each recipe includes ingredients, directions, serving size, and small blurb. While some recipes require as little as 5 ingredients and little prep time, it makes for fun and accessibility for everyone involved. I found some recipes better than others, while some weren’t clearly focused on fun and creativity—but overall it offers a great selection of projects and recipes for a family to enjoy. It was well crafted with time and quality, and Sarah and Gia did a wonderful job. It’s creative and cheerful, a cookbook that anyone with children would love to have in their home.

Synopsis

Why stop with making basic brownies? Why not put them on a stick and decorate them? Why not take boring broccoli and turn it into a yummy cheese muffin instead? Sarah Michelle Gellar learned quickly that to get her kids to be adventurous with food, she had to involve them in preparing it. She wanted that process to be fun and help them develop self-confidence, creative thinking, and even math skills! So Sarah and co-author Gia Russo came up with more than 100 fun food-crafting ideas that take basic food preparation to a surprising new level.

Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 18th 2017 by Grand Central Life & Style

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I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

 

 

Book Review: Food Anatomy by Julia Rothman

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★ ★ ★

A delightful visual tour through international cuisine, Food Anatomy gives insight into cultures without being overwhelming with information, and makes for an enjoyable reading and learning experience. This is one of those books that you have on your coffee table, and pick up to read a little before putting it down for another time, so read in small doses. It’s full of food basics and information on cuisines and manners around the world, told through a charming and colorful illustrated glossary with little facts. It’s like taking a tour around the world on manners and food, right from the comfort of your own home. Whether your interested in different cuisines or a foodie, you’ll find this to be a light-hearted food-filled read.

Synopsis 

Get your recommended daily allowance of facts and fun with Food Anatomy, the third book in Julia Rothman’s best-selling Anatomy series. She starts with an illustrated history of food and ends with a global tour of street eats. Along the way, Rothman serves up a hilarious primer on short order egg lingo and a mouthwatering menu of how people around the planet serve fried potatoes — and what we dip them in. Award-winning food journalist Rachel Wharton lends her editorial expertise to this light-hearted exploration of everything food that bursts with little-known facts and delightful drawings. Everyday diners and seasoned foodies alike are sure to eat it up.

Paperback, 224 pages
Published November 15th 2016 by Storey Publishing, LLC

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I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

 

Book Review: The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride

28363987★ ★ ★

The Lesser Bohemians is the newest novel written by Eimear McBride, the author of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, which won the Baileys Women’s Prize in 2014. This is the first novel that I have read by Eimear McBride, and it was quite the experience.

This story appears to be a simple love story between an 18-year-old Irish girl who arrives in London to attend drama school, and a successful actor who is 20 years older. There are complex layers that only begin when their relationship blossoms. It is a captivating story about fierce love, innocence, and discovery set in the mid-1990′s London. McBride writes prose that is musical and beautifully done, but the structure of the writing absolutely made my head spin. This novel is wonderful, but it requires a lot of focus and piecing together bits throughout because sentences are quite choppy and scattered. The style of writing is not one that I would particularly pick up and purchase for myself because of that, however it certainly is unique.

Synopsis

Upon her arrival in London, an 18-year-old Irish girl begins anew as a drama student, with all the hopes of any young actress searching for the fame she’s always dreamed of. She struggles to fit in—she’s young and unexotic, a naive new girl—but soon she forges friendships and finds a place for herself in the big city.

Then she meets an attractive older man. He’s an established actor, 20 years older, and the inevitable clamorous relationship that ensues is one that will change her forever.

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 20th 2016 by Hogarth

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Book Review: The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang

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★ ★ ★

The Wangs vs. the World is Jade Chang’s debut novel, released in early October with all the book circling social media.  It was One of Entertainment Weekly’s Most Anticipated Titles of 2016, and Barnes & Noble’s Discover Pick of Fall 2016. It is about Charles Wang, an immigrant businessman who built a cosmetics company and made a fortune building that empire, however he loses it all (right down to his last cent) when the financial crisis hit the United States in 2008. Being the prideful, self-made man that he is, he makes the decision that he wants to attempt to reclaim his family’s ancestral lands in China. Before that, he decides to take his family on a road-trip across America to pick up their oldest daughter, who is hiding in upstate New York due to a fallen career of her own.

Being one of the latest books out with a premise revolving around the economic downfall in 2008, I had The Wangs vs. the World on my anticipated reads of this year. It sounded like a humorous, touching riches-to-rags debut, but it didn’t live up to what I was expecting. It was a slow build-up in the beginning, which made it a bit of a struggle to get into, but it did pick up as the story furthered along. I thought the premise was interesting, but the execution was not as promising. There were parts in the novel that had lost my interest, or just didn’t fit into playing a role into the story-telling, in my opinion. However, while I did not like this book as much as I hoped, there were other aspects that made up for it–the characters being just that. I thought the variety of personalities and how well done they were made for a wild ride through the road trip with the Wang family. The characters are definitely what kept me reading, and while it wasn’t a favorite or one that I would pick up again, it was an entertaining adventure with family drama. I see why other readers loved The Wangs vs. the World, it just wasn’t for me.

Synopsis

Charles Wang is mad at America. A brash, lovable immigrant businessman who built a cosmetics empire and made a fortune, he’s just been ruined by the financial crisis. Now all Charles wants is to get his kids safely stowed away so that he can go to China and attempt to reclaim his family’s ancestral lands—and his pride.

Charles pulls Andrew, his aspiring comedian son, and Grace, his style-obsessed daughter, out of schools he can no longer afford. Together with their stepmother, Barbra, they embark on a cross-country road trip from their foreclosed Bel-Air home to the upstate New York hideout of the eldest daughter, disgraced art world it-girl Saina. But with his son waylaid by a temptress in New Orleans, his wife ready to defect for a set of 1,000-thread-count sheets, and an epic smash-up in North Carolina, Charles may have to choose between the old world and the new, between keeping his family intact and finally fulfilling his dream of starting anew in China.

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 4th 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer

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★ ★ ★

I went into this expecting a captivating thriller about a child who goes missing one day at a local festival, and the story as it unfolds through both the daughter and mother’s perspectives. It is well-written, and the prose throughout is poetic, but it was a novel that left me unsatisfied by the ending. It was a book that I kept putting down, and took me quite a while to get through due to the pacing, and the mother’s point-of-view became difficult to read. I wouldn’t consider this an intense thriller, but it is a powerful story between mother and daughter with believable emotions when in a situation like Beth and Carmel. It was realistically portrayed with characters that give you an insight into having hope and faith through it all. I gave this 3 stars because I did enjoy it, but it wasn’t as much of a thriller like I had expected.

Synopsis

Newly single mom Beth has one constant, gnawing worry: that her dreamy eight-year-old daughter, Carmel, who has a tendency to wander off, will one day go missing.

And then one day, it happens: On a Saturday morning thick with fog, Beth takes Carmel to a local outdoor festival, they get separated in the crowd, and Carmel is gone.

Shattered, Beth sets herself on the grim and lonely mission to find her daughter, keeping on relentlessly even as the authorities tell her that Carmel may be gone for good.

Carmel, meanwhile, is on a strange and harrowing journey of her own—to a totally unexpected place that requires her to live by her wits, while trying desperately to keep in her head, at all times, a vision of her mother…

Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 16th 2016 by Melville House

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I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Trees by Ali Shaw

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★ ★ ★

This was a unique concept with an intriguing premise. The cover is stunning, with a wolf made out of leaves. I thought that was cool and fitting into the story-line, and have to say it is one of the best covers I’ve seen this year. It is a different view about a post-apocalyptic world, and as someone who enjoys novels of the genre, I couldn’t wait to read what was in store with The Trees. The beginning is strong with vivid world-building, and an introduction to the characters to get an idea on who they are when it first begins. Within the first 100 pages or so, I was lost and overwhelming in the world that was becoming consumed by trees. Can you imagine an end to the world coming not from a plague of some-sort or global disaster… but by trees breaking through the ground everywhere, destroying anything in their path?

That is a eerie and frightening thought, and Shaw’s writing places you in the story as it all unfolds. It was interesting as the characters attempted to cope with what was going on in the world and come together to find their path through the destruction and chaos. To have a character who is a mother with an odd and different view on what was going on, that was unexpected. Adrien wasn’t an easy character to find relatable, and he certainly wasn’t always one that I rooted for, but I thought it was interesting to read this story with the contrast of characters and still being realistic-you never know how a person is going to react in such a bizarre and otherworldly situation.

Come just over half of the book, the pace and story-telling began to shift, and it was just difficult to get through it because it felt clunky, and as if the author didn’t know where to take the story and characters from there into the end At times it couldn’t keep me engaged so it took me a while to read through the entire book. While that was the only downfall, I did really enjoy this suspenseful, haunting novel.

Synopsis

The Trees. They arrived in the night: wrenching through the ground, thundering up into the air, and turning Adrien’s suburban street into a shadowy forest. Shocked by the sight but determined to get some answers, he ventures out, passing destroyed buildings, felled power lines, and broken bodies still wrapped in tattered bed linens hanging from branches.

It is soon apparent that no help is coming and that these trees, which seem the work of centuries rather than hours, span far beyond the town. As far, perhaps, as the coast, where across the sea in Ireland, Adrien’s wife is away on a business trip and there is no way of knowing whether she is alive or dead.

When Adrien meets Hannah, a woman who, unlike him, believes that the coming of the trees may signal renewal rather than destruction and Seb, her technology-obsessed son, they persuade him to join them. Together, they pack up what remains of the lives they once had and set out on a quest to find Hannah’s forester brother and Adrien’s wife–and to discover just how deep the forest goes.

Their journey through the trees will take them into unimaginable territory: to a place of terrible beauty and violence, of deadly enemies and unexpected allies, to the dark heart of nature and the darkness–and also the power–inside themselves.

Hardcover, 496 pages
Published August 2nd 2016 by Bloomsbury USA

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I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. All opinions are my own.