Rush

22011697.jpg Rush by Sara Bennett Wealer

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley, release date 11/15/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

Three girls. One week. One chance to start over.
Maddie dreams of joining Sigma Theta Kappa, Baldwin University’s most powerful sorority, and rising above the people who walked all over her in high school—especially her boyfriend-stealing twin sister. Rush is Maddie’s chance to become the girl she always knew she could be—if she can survive Sigma’s brutal selection process.
Imogen came to Baldwin to escape her wealthy family and launch her dream career as a journalist. But her Sigma legacy might just keep her tied to the past, while her crush on her new editor could upset her plans for the future.
Cass remembers what Sigma was like before her fellow sisters put money and “Must Haves” over true friendship. By the time rush week ends, she’ll either save the sorority or quit Greek life—but first she’ll have to confront her feelings for her anti-Greek best friend Leo. Does he feel the same? Or will Cass’s commitment to Sigma keep them apart?
The week before college is a fresh start—a chance to be your true self and find sisters for life. But rush means making tough decisions and facing rejection along the way. Maddie, Imogen and Cass have until Bid Day to decide whether they’re really meant to “go Greek.” The key, each girl will find, is figuring out who her real friends are.

My thoughts:

I wanted a light read that didn’t make me think too much and this fit the bill. I enjoy reading about things like this and other people’s drama…as long as it’s not my own! I went through part of sorority rush when I started college and decided it wasn’t for me, so I was interested to read about what happens at other schools and the experience of other girls. I liked how the stories were told from different points of view and enjoyed all of the characters that told their stories. Maddie did annoy me a bit because she seemed a little too perfect, but was still relatable in her dream of just fitting in. Imogen was a fun character and Cass was just a normal, slightly insecure girl who just wanted to make things right. I think any girl could a find a character she could relate to in this book. Great, fun read!

My rating: 4/5

Small Great Things

28587957 Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley, release date 10/11/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?
Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.
With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.

My thoughts:

First, I just HAD to read this and was so excited that Jodi Picoult was at BEA and I was able to get a copy signed by her. I did base my review on the e-ARC from Netgalley though, as I did not want to read the actual signed copy and damage it in any way. 🙂 Anyway, I am rarely disappointed by Jodi Picoult, and the synopsis to this drew me in…it is so timely! After reading only the first few chapters, I sat and thought about how brave Jodi was to write a book that was based on so much controversy. I really enjoyed reading her Author’s Note at the end to get insight into her thoughts and the process of writing this story. I certainly wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing so. I, like Jodi mentions, would never consider myself racist, but it seems sometimes that just being born as a white person makes you blind to what really goes on.

I really liked Ruth as a character and found myself trying to empathize with her, I can’t imagine being told I couldn’t do my job based simply on the color of my skin. Turk was loathsome, of course, and I truly hated him throughout the book, which was the whole point I know. I also found myself relating to Kennedy, wanting to help but then unsure how to exactly do so. I was impressed with her final discovery, as I would have never thought of it.

I gave this 4 stars simply because I felt it did drag on a little too long, some of it felt a bit repetitive I guess. I also felt like the ending was rushed and this might not make sense since I just said the book was too long, but I could have easily read another book based on the last few chapters of this one telling what happened years after the court case. I do highly recommend this book and will be purchasing it for my school library. I commend Jodi for writing about such a tough topic, which she does often, and doing so in such a great way!

My rating: 4/5

A Shadow Bright and Burning

23203252.jpg A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

**This review is based on an ARC I picked up at BEA in Chicago, release date is 9/20/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she is brought to London to train with Her Majesty’s sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she’s the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city–and the one she loves?

My thoughts:

I am pretty impressed with this book, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into and I feel like there has been some overkill on fantasy lately or too many with the same kind of story, not sure what it is. Anyway, the description of this one was short and sweet and did its job to pull me in. I liked the magic story with a female point of view, which is a little less common I think.  I really liked most of the characters in this book, Henrietta was smart and funny and Magnus was a jerk, but also wonderful if that makes sense. He made me laugh often. I even grew accustomed to Blackwood, even though he was a bit of a bump on a log. Betrayal is pretty abundant in this story and I didn’t see the events at the end coming, but surprises are a good thing in this kind of book. I would recommend to my students and will be purchasing for my school library.

My rating: 4/5

Dark Matter

27833670 Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley, release date 7/26/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

“Are you happy with your life?” Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”
In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable–something impossible.
Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

My thoughts:

This is not a book I would typically pick up, but I kept seeing it at BEA and never got my hands on it. I requested it on Netgalley instead and was approved so here we are. I wasn’t sure what to think going in as some other reviewers called it Sci-fi (which is definitely not my thing) and others called it Psychological Suspense. Though there is definitely some science-y stuff in it–Jason is a scientist after all–it definitely leans more toward the Psychological Suspense side of things. Jason has no idea what is happening to him, but has limited resources, and lots of knowledge, to figure it out and work his way back to “his world” with very little help. Once he does find his way back to what he thinks is his version of the world, he faces other very familiar obstacles. Based on the synopsis and the different versions of the same world, it seems like this would be a very confusing read, but it actually wasn’t at all. I was intrigued and found all the descriptions of Chicago, in its various forms, very interesting. I can’t imagine what it would be like to experience this kind of bizarreness and to try to get others to believe you.

This was a good read, but not one I would typically pick up or even recommend to my friends. I will keep it in mind though for people who do ask for this kind of book and am glad that I did read it. The end wrapped up a little too easily for me, but I am picky about endings, so it could just be me.

My rating: 4/5

Truly Madly Guilty

26247008 Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley, release date 7/26/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong?
Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other.
Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite.
Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?

My thoughts:

Okay, so this book both intrigued and frustrated me at the same time. I wanted to keep reading to find out the big secret, but was also frustrated that I didn’t know from the beginning. Basically, for the first half of the book, you know that something happened at a BBQ at a neighbor’s house, but you have no idea what that something was. The story is told in both flashbacks to the bbq and current day (weeks later) and is also told in alternating viewpoints. Sounds confusing, but it actually isn’t at all. I had my predictions about what the secret would end up being, and I was close but not spot on. Even though I wish I had known earlier in the book, I still found it to be a pretty enjoyable read. I liked most of the characters (even though some were a little weird or off-putting) and their background stories, especially the story of Erika’s mother and her hoarding habits. I also like learning new things when I read, so I thought Clementine’s cello-playing was pretty cool too. This was an everyday story about everyday people, but that’s what made it interesting.

I do enjoy Liane Moriarty’s storytelling and she is on my list of authors to read each time a new book is released by them. I would recommend this one to friends and family.

My rating: 4/5

Falling

28110094 Falling by Jane Green

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley, release date 7/19/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

When Emma Montague left the strict confines of upper-crust British life for New York, she felt sure it would make her happy. Away from her parents and expectations, she felt liberated, throwing herself into Manhattan life replete with a high-paying job, a gorgeous apartment, and a string of successful boyfriends. But the cutthroat world of finance and relentless pursuit of more began to take its toll. This wasn’t the life she wanted either.
On the move again, Emma settles in the picturesque waterfront town of Westport, Connecticut, a world apart from both England and Manhattan. It is here that she begins to confront what it is she really wants from her life. With no job, and knowing only one person in town, she channels her passion for creating beautiful spaces into remaking the dilapidated cottage she rents from Dominic, a local handyman who lives next door with his six-year-old son.
Unlike any man Emma has ever known, Dominic is confident, grounded, and committed to being present for his son whose mother fled shortly after he was born. They become friends, and slowly much more, as Emma finds herself feeling at home in a way she never has before.
But just as they start to imagine a life together as a family, fate intervenes in the most shocking of ways. For the first time, Emma has to stay and fight for what she loves, for the truth she has discovered about herself, or risk losing it all.

My thoughts:

I had planned on posting this review several days ago. This is normally a book that I could have read in a few days, but I had other things going on that stretched it out quite a bit. This is a good love story though, which managed to keep my interest when not much else was doing so. (I DNF’ed 2 other books right before this, which I rarely do.) I have come to expect these kinds of stories from Jane Green, and I know I can rely on her for a generally good book.

I am not a fan of insta-love in books, so that irritated me a bit; but, at least, there was some questioning and drama to keep it from being too easy. I really liked Emma’s character and that we got a bit of London, but without the story being set there. Dominic was a likable character as well, though I would have liked to know more about his background growing up with lots of domestic issues. How did it affect all of his relationships and how did he keep from turning out the same way? This was addressed a bit, but more would have been nice. One of my favorite characters was Emma’s best friend, Sophie, and I would have liked more of her for sure.

Without any spoilers, I was not a fan of the ending so much, but I can see why it was the way it was. It was necessary for Emma to find out who she really is and what matters most. I felt like things wrapped up a bit too nicely (should be happy about that, right?), but I also can’t offer any critiques on how to change that, so….I can’t really take away from my rating for that. I would recommend this title to family and friends for sure.

My rating: 4/5