Adult Book Reviews by Genre: Realistic

Book Review: She's Come Undone
Lamb, Wally
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Goodreads synopsis for this book says the main character is the "most heartbreakingly comical heroine to come along in years." That's a bunch of crap. The main character is flawed but not funny, just sad and hard to root for. Some parts of the book I loved, other parts I didn't. But overall the good parts won out.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Awards:
Book Review: Illegal
Colfer, Eoin
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Ebo’s brother Kwame is missing. But Ebo knows where he’s gone: to find their sister. Life in Libya is hard, so Ebo and Kwame’s sister, Hannah, left and promised to send back money once she was installed in Europe with a new job and more money. But since she left, Ebo and Kwame have heard nothing from her. So when Ebo wakes up one morning and Kwame is gone, Ebo knows he must go after him. What follows is the harrowing, heartbreaking story of Ebo’s journey through dangerous cities, deserts, and the ocean.

Wow. Look, I cry a lot, and am no stranger to crying whilst reading. But this book made me sob. Like, uncontrollable tears running down my face. The refugee story is often a sad and intense one, and Ebo’s is certainly no exception. And then, when you think about Ebo’s story in the context of it being a real thing happening to real people in this world that we all share, and the US is actively turning away people in similar if not the same situation, well, its depressing. But importantly so. One must also consider the fact that thousands of children, thousands of people are dying, and no one seems to care. It’s a deeply sad book that will cause lots of introspection, but for me, that’s a good thing. This is an issue that needs more attention.

The stunning artwork added to the impact. Seeing Ebo’s expressions - the heartbreak, loss, and hope playing out across his face – made what was already an intense, powerful story all the more affecting. I loved pretty much everything about this book, and I hope you take the time to read it. 5 stars.

Thanks to Baker & Taylor, Netgalley and Sourcebooks for the free paper and electronic advance copies, which I received in exchange for an honest review. Illegal is available now – put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
The Rejected Writers' Book Club
Kelman, Suzanne
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

If you need a laugh-out-loud book with plenty of zany characters and a main character who happens to be a librarian, PICK UP THIS BOOK NOW!!! These are a wacky group of writers, and you will just have a good time following their adventures. Be sure to read the next two books in the series - "Rejected Writers Take the Stage", and "The Rejected Writers Christmas Wedding."

Reviewer's Name: Krista M.
The Tuscan Child
Bowen, Rhys
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Loved this dual-timeline novel. Both stories were strong enough that they could have stood on their own, but together they were wonderful. The descriptions of a small town in Tuscany were so vivid that I felt like I was there, and the food in particular made me hungry! I've only ever read the Royal Spyness mysteries by Rhys Bowen, but they are among my favorite lighthearted mystery series. Now, I'm definitely going to have to pick up In Farleigh Field and her other mysteries!!!

Reviewer's Name: Krista M.
The Art of Inheriting Secrets
O'Neal, Barbara
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

My favorite so far of Barbara O'Neal's books, and my favorite of the year! This book was just beautiful in every way and just what I needed. Beautiful setting, family secrets, descriptions of food that made my mouth water, and one of the most beautiful love stories I've read in a long time. I honestly felt sad when this book ended. I will be recommending it to anyone looking for a mystery, a Gothic novel, a healing story, a foodie book, or a gorgeous love story. Just wonderful.

Reviewer's Name: Krista M.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Twain, Mark
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Huckleberry Finn is a rebel against school, church, and the respectable society that wants to civilize him. Therefore, after faking his own death, Huck embarkes on a raft journey down the Mississippi River along with Jim, a runaway slave. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel full of shenanigans, adventures, schemes, and pranks in addition to deep contemplation that gives some great advice. This adventure is truly a classic and I highly recommend it for any middle schooler or older since there is something in this book for all ages.

Reviewer's Name: John B.
Code of Honor
Gratz, Alan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Kamran and Darius Smith made a code of honor when they were kids; be the bravest of, the brave strongest of the strong ,help the helpless, kill all monsters. But when Darius graduates at west point, and then joins the army, he is captured by the al qaeda and forced to make public broadcasts about threats from the terrorist group. After that happened Kamran is taken to a government facility and decides to prove that Darius is innocent. He gets the help he needs from Ex-special forces officer Dane Redmond, Aaliya sayid, Jimmy Doran ,and Mickey Hagan. Together they help Kamran rescue Darius, but wait, one of someone might be a traitor to the team.

Reviewer's Name: Brendan M.
The Map of Salt and Stars
Joukhadar, Jennifer Zeynab
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

You know you have come across an extraordinary book when you find yourself thinking about its beautiful story and characters several months after you have first read it. I first read this beautiful novel back in February when I received an ARC of it from the publisher, and today I still think of the book and its beautiful characters of Nour and her family as they flee their homeland, Syria in 2011, and become refugees venturing across several middle eastern countries as the situation becomes more and more unstable and the violence ever more brutal. Shifting between past and present, in a second duel story-line that takes places more than 800 years earlier in Medieval Syria, Jennifer Zeynab also tells a harrowing tale of a girl named Rawiya, her desire to see the world, her very real clash with supernatural myth, and her adventures with a famous cartographer.

Jennifer Joukhadar through the fictional characters of Nour and her family, discusses a relevant and timely topic of the experience of many refugees that flee persecution and violence. She also does it in a way, that is, for the most part, unbiased choosing to focus instead on the everyday human experience of a family, instead of political ideology, which is very refreshing in today’s global climate.

The atmospheric and beautiful prose are a delight to read as we get to experience the world the way Nour and Rawiya saw it through beauty, sorrow, color and light. The character development of Nour, as her personal identity and her idea of what home is shifts as her journey progresses through time and years, is especially strong as she reflects on all she has lost and gained. Though the character development of Rawiya, shows a progression and change as her journeys around the world challenges and changes her perspective on life, I do not think it was as strong as the story of Nour and her family. And though Rawiya’s story-line was beautiful and entertaining, I felt it sometimes took away, from what I think of, as the central story-line of Nour and her family’s refugee experience.

That issue aside, this novel which is rich with historical and mythical detail, was in my opinion, several steps above the rest as it tackled a relevant, continuous, and difficult issue with beauty, grace and a truly memorable story. This novel, it has been said, does for Syrian Refugees what the Kite Runner did for Afghan refugees and in my opinion, it is a fair and correct comparison.

Thank you to the publisher Touchstone Books for an ARC of this beautiful novel for review! If you have not yet, please put this book on your holds list, it is so beautiful!

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie

Max

Shotz, Jennifer
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Max is a service dog who's owner Kyle Wincott gets killed in a mission when he was in the marine corps. The only person Max can get along with is Kyles little Brother, a 14 year old boy named Justin. He get's help training max with the help of a young lady named Carmen, who is a cousin of Chuy who is Justin's best friend. Chuy has another cousin in this book who is a gangster, and his name is Emilio. Justin bootlegs video games for Emilio to receive money. Justin overhears a conversation on the phone between Emilio and Tyler, who was Kyle's best friend. He decides to track down Emilio and then when he finds out what they were talking about he tries to stop it. He uses Max's expertise to help him. This was a great read I would Highly recommend this book for dog lovers.

Reviewer's Name: Brendan M.
Genres:
Cry, the Beloved Country
Paton, Alan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The mystery of unbelief and rebellion and the misery that flows flows from it, is a great theme in scriptures and is played out painfully and powerfully in this epic novel. The questions surrounding unbelief, the pain to all who witness lives unraveling, and the consequences that lead to death can never be expounded upon simply. They are mysteries without simple answers.

In this profound book, some are driven to evil and misery by poverty and social injustice. But others, particularly two of the main characters, choose dark paths when they have been given every opportunity out. Light and life are offered but they follow after death and darkness.

Although this is story set in South Africa, it bears meaning for all time.
All are offered living water. "Come to me all you who thirst, come buy and eat, without money and without price." But many will not come. The dog returns to his vomit and sow to wallowing in his mud. To those who have tasted of the everlasting water, to those who know life and light, this remains among life's greatest mysteries. Everyone is offered cleansing waters of forgiveness, they are offered an eternal pardon, they are offered everlasting joy, they are offered peace and hope, but they love the darkness.
And they suffer for their choice as their life unravels thread by thread, and they bring grief upon grief on everyone who loves them. But they do not care and they do not turn. And Jesus wept over Jerusalem saying: "How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood, but you were not willing."

A father weeps over a son and a sister, and as he weeps, he participates in the weeping of Jesus over Jerusalem. And yet, there is one in the story who flees corruption.

The ultimate crisis of this story takes place in the heart of the old priest who has led a faithful life. For darkness is predatory and never at rest, but it creeps and pursues and desires to consume and devour and distinguish all light. Will the priest be overtaken by hopelessness and despair and fear in his darkest hour? Will anger and perplexity and grief have the final word in his bereaved heart? Where will he turn to comfort? The darkness will not stop pursuing him and will not be content until he too has lost his joy in life.
How will he fight? What will he hold on to?

Highly recommend.

Reviewer's Name: Leslie Taylor
Awards:
Devos, Kelly
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Cookie Vonn is fat. And while she doesn’t want her weight to rule her life, she’s interested in fashion design. And in fashion, size is everything. Her dreams of getting out of Scottsdale, attending Parsons, an elite fashion design school, and becoming a fashion designer for women of all sizes might not work out if she can’t lose the weight.

Fast forward two years. Thanks to insane self-control, and the power of NutriMin (a stand in for Weight Watchers) Cookie has lost the weight. And the opportunities do start to roll in. She’s offered the chance to meet her idol and cover his fashion show for NutriMin. Better yet, after a breakfast meeting with him, she gets an offer to design a special plus size line that will be released as a preview for his upcoming Winter/Spring Collection. But even as Cookie’s life seems to be exactly what she wanted, she finds being skinny isn’t a panacea, and that somewhere along the way, she might have lost not only the weight, but herself.

This is a great new adult coming of age novel that I ate right up. It’s not my normal fare – I typically don’t read YA romances unless the protagonist is a person of color. While Cookie is white, she is fat, and that is definitely an underrepresented group of people in most modern literature, so I decided to take a chance on this one, and I’m really glad I did. I think some overweight readers will balk at the idea of this being a Cinderella story, but that’s not what this is – a lot of the book really centers on Cookie realizing that while her weight might be part of her identity, its not what makes her Cookie, and that realization is what makes this a strong coming of age tale.

The book switches back and forth between past and present Cookie (fat and skinny), a literary device that worked well here. We know Cookie gets skinny, but we learn why and how in the “fat” chapters, and we get to learn how she reaps the fruits of her labor in the “skinny” chapters. I wanted to know what happened to both versions of Cookies, and I found myself staying up way too late one night reading this. Cookie herself is a smart, resourceful young woman, and while she makes some seriously stupid decisions, they all seem in character and are the sort of decisions an inexperienced young woman might make – especially when the adults around her were sometimes giving her awful advice. I hated both of her relationships, but they seemed pretty realistic, and hopefully young women can learn from Cookie’s mistakes. I wish she had cut both guys out of her life as they were both toxic (one of them gets off way too easily), but that is my really my only major complaint.

I really liked this one, and I think new adults and older teens who enjoy contemporary reads will as well. If you like Meg Cabot, Sophie Kinsella or Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’, this book is definitely for you. 4 stars.

Thanks to Netgalley and Harlequin Teen for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an honest review. Fat Girl on a Plane is available for purchase now, and you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
All the Light We Cannot See
Doeer, Anthony
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

If All the Light We Cannot See were a movie, I would consider it “Oscar bait.” Set during the most romantic of World Wars: check. Main character with disability: check. Drama, tragedy, and suspense: check, check, and check. It’s then no wonder that All the Light We Cannot See ended up winning a Pulitzer. Sure, it’s filled with plenty of the “award” tropes that we tend to see repeated over and over again—but it works. What helps this book stand out from the rest of the books and movies that try too hard to earn awards is twofold: its characters and its plot.

Before I get too far into my praise for this book, I have to mention that the narrator for the audiobook version seemed to mispronounce a few words early on, which threw me for a loop and made me wonder if I’ve been mispronouncing them myself. Similarly, it was a little challenging to track the timeframes for some of the subplots, but the impact of the book was still the same. The author was able to paint a vivid set of lives set on opposite sides of a global conflict. From the blind French girl forced to survive on her own to the prodigious German boy with a penchant for radios and STEM, their internal and external conflicts were prime examples of gripping and engaging storytelling.

While there didn’t seem to be one primary driving plot in this book, the addition of the handful of subplots worked in concert to create a gem of a story (har har). These subplots were natural to the characters that embodied them, which helped to produce an amount of realism that held everything together. Everything just made sense, and even the semi-tragic ending was a satisfying end that left no subplot or loose end untied.

A beautiful piece of prose worthy of its Pulitzer, I give All the Light We Cannot See 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Agresti, Aimee
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Every four years, presidential candidates and their staffers travel the country searching for funding and votes. Campaign Widows follows five people who have been left behind by their partners as they work for electoral victory. But don't kid yourself - these "widows" have lives of their own. There is Cady, a newcomer to DC who is producing a show that is sagging in the ratings, Reagan, a speechwriter who is now doing freelance work as the recent mother to two twin girls, Birdie, a media mogul and DC taste-maker, Madison, whose husband Hank is in the running to be president, and Jay, whose partner Sky who got quickly upgraded from the "culture" section of the Queue (think Huffpost) to "politics" due to a staffing shortage. The book covers each of these dynamic characters as they live their own lives and effect the election in their own ways - with or without their partners' support.

This book is the perfect summer beach read, which is to say that its a light, fluffy read that would be great for any vacation (no beach necessary). The premise and setting were unique - I've not read a ton of women's fiction that is politically centered or even set in DC, and that really added to the title's value for me. All of the characters were well drawn and interesting in their own way. Often, when I read a book with multiple POVs, I find myself more invested in certain stories and then race through the chapters I don't much care for, but that was not the case here. Everyone was likable and engaging.

On the downside, I wanted more political satire than I got. While there definitely was some satire (Hank is a Trump stand-in, for example), and some dream scenarios (a three person dead heat race), I wanted more. Everyone's arcs were tied up a little too neatly for my taste, and it also made the book feel a bit less realistic.

Overall, I would recommend this read to anyone who enjoys the genre and likes happy and easy reads. It reminded me of Crazy Rich Asians in tone and style, so if you liked that book, give this one a try! I hope it gets made into a TV show or movie, because it'd be excellent in either of those formats if the drama and comedy were both amped up a bit. If you are looking for a light summer read, look no farther. 4 stars - its a stand-out in its genre!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Graydon House through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. Campaign Widows became available for purchase on 22 May, and you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Every Note Played
Genova, Lisa
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

As with all of this authors' novels, this book was beautifully written. I honestly didn't like either of the main characters in the beginning, but as they came to accept the changes in their lives and atone for wrongs they committed to each other I felt more and more empathy for what they went through. This disease is absolutely awful and it is painful to read about its progression, but I'm glad Ms. Genova continues to shed light on illnesses such as this in a way that is accessible. Highly recommended (unless you are feeling blue, then you might want to try something a little lighter!).

Reviewer's Name: Krista
Genres:
Book Review: A Man Called Ove
Backman, Fredrik
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book starts of slow and then continues a leisurely pace throughout. It was a bit hard for me to get through the first half of the novel as it mainly dealt with the thought process of a suicidal curmudgeon. But as the novel unfolds, Ove is unwrapped to show a man with quiet strength who is mourning the loss of his wife and his job. As the novel continues, we meet people who insert themselves into his life, showing him kindness and giving him purpose. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a quiet, leisurely novel about the power of friendship.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
The Longest Ride
Sparks, Nicholas
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The novel “The Longest Ride” by Nicholas Sparks unravels two beautiful romance stories. The two stories are more different than alike but each love story have its own unique characteristics. The first story is about a man named Ira. He gets into a wreck on a snowy night and starts hallucinating his wife, who died 9 years ago. They start recapping their “Longest Ride” together. There love story came to be in the 1900’s around World War 2, making for some tough times and some beautifully romantic times. The other story is about young Sophia and Luke. Sophia is in college and Luke rides bulls. They meet at a rodeo and their totally different worlds collide. They soon start a relationship that is different than any other they’ve had. I loved this book because I love romance novels. I recommend it if you love sappy romance.
Reviewer grade 10

Reviewer's Name: Reaghan D.
Sing, Unburied, Sing
Ward, Jesmyn
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Jo Jo and his mother Leonie have been living on a farm in rural Missisippi for their entire lives. Jo Jo's father, Michael, has been in jail for drug related crimes, and thus most of Jo Jo and his sister Kayla's upbringing has been done by their grandparents: the gruff but ultimately loving Pop and the cancer-ridden matriarch, Mam. Everyone's world is about to be upended, though, as time grows near for Michael to get out of prison.

Writing any sort of synopsis for this book was particularly challenging, as there's not much in the way of plot. I don't mean that in a bad way. I sometimes love books that focus solely character development, and that is absolutely what this is. The writing is insanely gorgeous and it's obvious from the gruesome beginning scene as to why this won the National Book Award.

Ward manages to make almost all of the characters relatable or lovable even as they do and say and think terrible things. She absolutely captures some of the wonderfully horrible aspects of the human condition, and here is a lot to love in this book.

That being said, I did not much care for certain aspects of the audiobook. First, by the time I got the book, I had forgotten what it was actually about. I did not remember that ghosts were a part of the story and was really confused for the first part of the book (are these flashbacks? how is that character here? I thought he was dead?), but I eventually figured it out. For me, the ghosts detracted from the story and I could have done without that element, even though magical realism is often my jam. The biggest problem for me, however, was Rutina Wesley's performance (which, hilariously enough, is why I went for this in audiobook format - I liked her in the few seasons I watched of True Blood). It was over enunciated especially given that Leonie is from Mississippi, and I found her parts to be melodramatic as there were a lot of weird pauses and words said breathlessly. It just didn't work for me, and I wanted to skip all of Leonie's parts.

If you would like to read a gorgeously written character study/family drama with a compelling setting, then this is a great bet. Just read it, don't listen to it. 3 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Book Review: Small Great Things
Picoult, Jodi
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Here's the problem I have with Jodi Picoult. She always does some left field plot twist at the end of her books. I find it very annoying. This book is no exception. Something completely weird happens toward the end. Otherwise I enjoyed this book. Especially the Turk chapters. Fascinating and disturbing. Some of the book was heavy handed, but it's hard for a white woman to write about race, so she has my sympathy.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Handle With Care
Picoult, Jodi
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite authors, as her stories always involve a complex moral dilemma her well-developed characters are grappling with. This story in particular tugs at the heart strings of mothers who would do anything to protect their suffering child. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about the deeper, melancholy moments of life.

Reviewer's Name: Bethany P.
Sweetbitter
Danler, Stephanie
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Some really beautiful thoughts and quotes stuck in between such vulgar language. Too many drug and sex scenes that were unnecessary.

Reviewer's Name: Lisa
Genres:

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