Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Small Great Things

Small Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Once again Jodi Picoult shows great skill in exploring some of the most difficult and emotional subjects without preaching or forcing a viewpoint on the reader.  In "Small Great Things" we learn the story of Ruth, a dedicated labor and delivery nurse. Ruth carefully negotiates her position as a black woman in a predominately white world, until a tragedy at work that rips apart her carefully crafted world. Picoult is a master storyteller who is able to give the perspectives of a white supremacist family who sees Ruth as a murderer, and they are desperately seeking revenge. We get to know Turk and Brit, and somehow Picoult manages to help us see into their unique lifestyle and world views, while still keeping their humanity as grieving parents. The readers also get to meet Kennedy, a white public defender who sees herself as a champion choosing to help the less fortunate, but Ruth's case forces Kennedy to address her own feelings about race and the subtle bias that affects so much of our lives. Kennedy struggles with this newfound awareness as she prepares Ruth's defense. 

The storytelling in this book is powerful, and Picoult is masterful at helping the reader relate to the characters, even Turk and Brit with their horrific world view and their all-consuming grief and anger. Perhaps the most compelling emotion for me was the frustration that Ruth feels from a system that fails to show her the loyalty and decency she has earned, and her emotions are so raw and real that readers will have a visceral reaction to the anguish Ruth feels. I hate to repeat the over-used book review phrase "I couldn't put it down" but I really couldn't put it down. I was so captivated by this story and all of its nuance and depth of emotion that at one point while reading I realized I was actually holding my breath to see what would happen next. 

Small Great Things should be added to everyone's to-read list, it is a powerful story that will captivate readers.

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Ape House by Sara Gruen

Ape HouseApe House by Sara Gruen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up Ape House because I was a fan of Sara Gruen's earlier work. This book taps into our fascination with apes, and the author does a tremendous job of infusing the apes with unique personalities, but some of the human characters in the book are not as well developed. The story begins when John, a reporter, has the opportunity to interview the apes and their handler, scientist Isabel Duncan. John is fascinated by the apes ability to communicate with him through sign language. He makes a genuine connection to the bonobos. Only hours after the interview, a terrorist bombing at the research facility severely injures Isabel and leads to the removal of the apes. John has to deal with challenges at work and at home, and ultimately quits his job and moves to L.A. to be with his wife Amanda, an aspiring novelist who is working on screenwriting for a television pilot. The relationship of John and Amanda is awkward and does not add greatly to the overall plot of the story. Isabel is devastated both from her physical injuries and from the loss of her bonobo 'family' so she begins an exhaustive search for the apes. John and Isabel meet up again when the apes are used in a zealously marketed reality TV stunt called Ape House. There are numerous references in the story to the animal rights protestors, and 'militant vegans' that use stereotypical descriptions and seem to trivialize the work of animal rights activists. While I did enjoy the book, many of the characters were under-developed, and the end of the book felt a bit forced.

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Friday, February 10, 2017

The Award by Danielle Steel

The AwardThe Award by Danielle Steel
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I am becoming increasingly convinced that Danielle Steele is simply using ghost writers and using her name to sell books. The Award was disappointing. The plot was simplistic and very obvious, the characters were shallow and uninteresting. I usually enjoy historical work, but this story felt so artificial. The beginning of the story felt authentic, but the entire second half of the book simply dragged on.  I almost didn't finish.  
I used to be a fan of Danielle Steel, but I am not certain if I will continue to read any her new work. I would not recommend this book.

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Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Wildwater Walking Club: Back on Track by Claire Cook

The Wildwater Walking Club: Back on Track (Book 2 of The Wildwater Walking Club series)The Wildwater Walking Club: Back on Track by Claire Cook
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Wildwater Walking Club: Back on Track

We have all been there in our lives, struggling to find our own purpose, in Claire Cook’s most recent book, The Wildwater Walking Club: Back on Track, the gals from the Wildwater Walking Club help each other through their own struggles. Noreen, Tess and Rosie hold each other accountable and encourage each other. They are the kind of friends that everyone needs in their life.

The Wildwater Walking Club: Back on Track shares the power of friends and the need to go beyond your comfort zone, but it does so in a light-hearted and fun way. Claire Cook is the master of reinvention and in this book she once again shows us why she earned that title. The Wildwater Walking Club: Back on Track is the continuing story of Noreen, Tess and Rosie who are neighbors that have banded together through their daily walks. In her usual sassy and casual style, Claire Cook makes reading feel like a chat with your best girl friends.

Each chapter starts with Noreen’s daily step count, and those of us sporting our own fitbit can relate to that daily goal. As Noreen, Tess and Rosie ‘step’ their way across Europe, they remind us of the importance of having goals, making a plan to get there, and most of all enjoying time with good friends along the way.

With vivid descriptions of the ship and each stop along the way, readers will feel like they are on a river cruise themselves. Noreen, Tess and Rosie share a love of lavender and readers can almost smell the lavender as they read descriptions of the lush lavender fields in France. Cook also incudes practical tips and recipes at then end of several chapters so readers can recreate them and share in the magic of lavender for themselves.

Part escape, part self-help guide, and all fun – this book is a great way to vicariously travel with Noreen and her friends and perhaps help readers find their purpose too.

I highly recommend this book to everyone who could use some positive motivation in his or her life.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review

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