74. Before I Wake by C. L. Taylor (sold in the UK and listed in Goodreads as The Accident)
Sue’s 15 year old daughter is lying in the hospital in a coma after seemingly trying to commit suicide by stepping in front of an oncoming bus. Sue is distraught and doesn’t believe that her daughter would really try to commit suicide, so she wants to understand what happened. She goes looking into her daughter’s life to try and piece together what might have really been going on. Meanwhile she starts discovering mysterious things that seem to be coming from someone she thought she escaped from her own past long ago. Could her what happened to her daughter and this long ago abusive relationship from her past somehow be connected? Told in alternating timelines in Sue’s present and past the story is a thrilling and creepy tale that will appeal to fans of books like Gone Girl and Before I Go to Sleep. I give it a 7 out of 10.
73. As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes
Cary Elwes writes his reminiscences about the making of the movie The Princess Bride. He shares the history of the film and how it almost didn’t get made, how various people got cast in the film, and tales from the set. Each story also includes quotes off-set in boxes from other people involved in the making of the film that relate to what he is writing about. Elwes isn’t the best of writers, but if you can get past that the book is warm-hearted and full of delightful little nuggets of information about the beloved movie. If you’re a fan of the movie you will almost certainly enjoy reading this book. It will be interesting to rewatch it now and spot some of the things Elwes reveals in the book. I give it a 6 out of 10.
72. My Notorious Life by Kate Manning
I read this book for one of my book clubs and quite enjoyed it. Axie Muldoon and her siblings are taken away from their widowed mother in 1860s New York and sent off on an orphan train to a better life. Axie’s brother and sister are adopted but she runs away from her placement only wanting to reunited her family and winds up back in New York where she is apprenticed to a doctor. She eventually becomes a midwife and works her way into becoming notoriously known for treating “women’s ailments” eventually running afoul of the law for her practices. All the while even across the many years she dreams of nothing but reuniting with her long lost sister and brother.
The characters and the setting are all very well drawn, and the book takes many interesting turns throughout. If you’re a fan of historical fiction I would definitely recommend this book. I give it an 8 out of 10.
71. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
I keep telling myself I’m going to stop reading Jodi Picoult books, but then I keep getting free galleys of them so I can’t help myself. If you’ve read Jodi Picoult before then you know exactly what you’re getting into with this book. It’s got the story told from multiple character perspectives switching back and forth and then a big twist at the end and in this case elephants.
Thirteen year old Jenna was born on an elephant sanctuary where her parents worked, but she’s been living with her grandmother for the past 10 years after one of the keepers was trampled by an elephant, her mother mysteriously disappeared, and her father was institutionalized after going crazy in the wake of tragic accident that led to all of this. Now Jenna is convinced her mother may still be alive and decides to hunt her down with the help of a psychic and the disgraced former detective who worked on the case originally both who are facing their own demons.
I certainly learned a lot about elephants that I didn’t know before. I really did not care for the twist at the end of this one though. It wasn’t one of my favorite Jodi Picoult books, but it wasn’t one of the worst either. I give it a 5 out of 10.
This is just a placeholder for the latest manuscript written by my mother that I read. It won’t be published until sometime next year and I’m drawing a blank on the name anyway. I just like to give myself credit for the book even though I’m not really going to review it.
69. Lucky Us by Amy Bloom
After the death of her father’s wife, Eva’s mother his mistress, drops her off with him and takes off. Iris her older sister takes Eva under her wing, and eventually to escape their abusive, alcoholic father the two of them run away into adventure across America during the 1940s. I enjoyed this book in the beginning, but then it sort of fell apart for me. It just felt very disjointed and I had a hard time following along with the story. Moreover I didn’t really much care what was happening to any of the characters, so I wasn’t much motivated to figure out how all of the pieces were fitting together. What started out as a fun romp of a young runaway trying to make it as a Hollywood startlet eventually turned into some story about a weirdly formed relationship between her sister and a Holocaust survivor. The jump even with all the plot of the book in between doesn’t make much more sense than it sounds here. I give it a 4 out of 10.
68. Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Meg Wolitzer dips her toe into the young adult novel scene with Belzhar. After deep mourning for over a year over her boyfriend who died, Jam Gallahue’s parents send her off to a special boarding school for troubled teens. At first Jam resents being there, but after getting drafted into a special English class devoted to studying the Bell Jar she begins to find healing power in the mysterious power of the journals their teacher provides them.
After devouring and loving The Interestings, Wolitzer’s most recent adult novel, this book fell completely flat for me. The characters seemed one dimensional, and maybe it’s because I’m old but I could not buy into the fact that Jam was that torn up over a boy she had only known for a little over a month. I don’t want to say too much more about the plot, but even though I’m not opposed to non-reality based things in books the mysterious magical thing that is the heart of this book didn’t really do much for me. I see tons of other people on Goodreads who loved this book though, so perhaps there is an audience that is not me that will love this including the teenagers it’s written for. I give it a 4 out of 10.
67. Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher
Dear Committee Members is a short epistolary novel told in a series of letters of recommendation written by professor of literature Jason Fitger. He becomes increasingly disgruntled as he strives to get his favorite student into a variety of positions while writing other letters on behalf of various other students, faculty members, and college administrators.
I had mixed feelings about this book. As someone who works at a university I was amused by all of the realities of academia expressed to an absurd level. On the other hand I’m not sure that this book would appeal that much to anyone outside of the academic world who has little knowledge of these things. I’m pretty sure my experience of it would have been greatly diminished had this not been a world I live in. I give it a 6 out of 10.
66. Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan
Leila is a junior in high school, who is into arts and theatre something her Persian doctor father doesn’t understand. Her older sister is the perfect daughter following in her father’s footsteps while Leila only seems to disappoint. Even worse she now realizes that she is attracted to Saskia the new girl in school, which is something her family will never understand. She can’t help her attraction though and stops trying to fight it despite the mixed signals she is getting from Saskia. In the midst of all this Leila reconnects with one of her old friends, Lisa and discovers that between her family and friends she is not the only one keepings secrets.
I enjoyed this book for the most part. It was interesting to have the typical high school story told with the influence of Persian culture underlying it. It provided an interesting angle that you don’t always get in young adult novels. I did feel like Saskia became somewhat of an evil cartoon, but overall the story was good and think will appeal to the audience that it’s aimed at. I give it a 6 out of 10.
65. Facing the Music: Discovering Real Life, Real Love, and Real Faith by Jennifer Knapp
In this memoir Jennifer Knapp shares about her very difficult childhood and how music kept her going through it. The music couldn’t however save her from the destructive pattern she started in high school and continued into college becoming a severe alcoholic as a teenager. What did save her was counseling and developing a relationship with Christ. Through her music and her new Christian friends Jennifer found herself propelled into a career in Christian Contemporary music where she quickly found herself atop the charts and engulfed in the consuming machine that is the Christian Contemporary Music industry. Eventually Jennifer wound up realizing that she had fallen in love with another woman and it was becoming increasingly clear to others who did not approve. Completely burnt out by constant touring and pressure to record more music and realizing she could no longer lie about her feelings Jennifer announced that she was quitting and disappeared for many years until she felt a call to return to Nashville in 2010.
I really enjoyed reading this book, but it made me sad. Jennifer found the love of Jesus and it saved her life and then a bunch of so-called Christians showed her everything but the love of Christ and almost ruined her faith. Luckily she felt God’s love more than their hate, but many people don’t. I give this book an 8 out of 10.