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

The Lovely Reckless

27414434.jpg The Lovely Reckless by Kami Garcia

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley, release date is 10/4/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Frankie Devereux would do anything to forget the past. Haunted by the memory of her boyfriend’s death, she lives her life by one dangerous rule: Nothing matters. At least, that’s what Frankie tells herself after a reckless mistake forces her to leave her privileged life in the Heights to move in with her dad—an undercover cop. She transfers to a public high school in the Downs, where fistfights don’t faze anyone and illegal street racing is more popular than football.
Marco Leone is the fastest street racer in the Downs. Tough, sexy, and hypnotic, he makes it impossible for Frankie to ignore him—and how he makes her feel. But the risks Marco takes for his family could have devastating consequences for them both. When Frankie discovers his secret, she has to make a choice. Will she let the pain of the past determine her future? Or will she risk what little she has left to follow her heart?

My thoughts:

Who can resist a good girl meets bad boy story? The writing in this book reminded me a lot of books by KA Tucker and Katie McGarry, which are two authors that I love. I met Kami Garcia at BEA in Chicago last May and got a signed copy of this one as well. I really enjoyed the story and the characters, nothing felt too cheesy and the love story wasn’t too easy. Marco was a great “bad boy” and I can see why he would be someone girls would easily fall for, but he had a lot of good in him too. Frankie had a rough-go in life for a while and her back story was really interesting. I kind of figured out the connection in the story fairly early on, but was still a little surprised to find out I was correct. I also really enjoyed the very minor storyline of the homeless cat because I have a huge soft spot for stray animals. I have already ordered a copy for my school library and will be gladly putting it in the hands of some students next week I hope!

My rating: 5/5

Meeting the author:

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One Was Lost

28321033.jpg One Was Lost by Natalie D. Richards

**This review is based on an ARC from the publisher (received at BEA) and e-ARC from Netgalley, release date 10/4/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

Murder, justice, and revenge were so not a part of the plan when Sera set out on her senior camping trip. After all, hiking through the woods is supposed to be safe and uneventful.
Then one morning the group wakes up groggy, confused, and with words scrawled on their wrists: Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. Their supplies? Destroyed. Half their group? Gone. Their chaperone? Unconscious. Worst of all, they find four dolls acting out a murder—dolls dressed just like them.
Suddenly it’s clear; they’re being hunted. And with the only positive word on her wrist, Sera falls under suspicion…

My thoughts:

I had read other books by this author and enjoyed them. I was able to meet her at BEA in Chicago this past May and had a talk with her about her books, recommending them to my students, and this title in particular. Natalie was super sweet and easy to talk to, letting me know that this is the kind of book that might keep you at night (in a good way!). 🙂  I was excited to read it and figured it would be a quick read, which it definitely was, thanks to the suspense level. It was pretty unpredictable and kept me on my toes. I kept going back and forth with who was responsible for the stalking/hunting and was surprised at the answer. This is a book I will definitely be able to sell to a lot of readers, reluctant or not, my teen students LOVE suspense so it will be an easy book talk. I will definitely be ordering it this week for my library. I also enjoy the creepy cover, makes it even more appealing.

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

Stealing Snow

28260524.jpg Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

**This review is based on ARC from BEA and also from Netgalley, release date 9/20/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Snow has spent the majority of her life within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she’s not crazy and doesn’t belong there. When she meets a mysterious, handsome new orderly and dreams about a strange twisted tree she realizes she must escape and figure out who she really is.
Using her trusting friend Bale as a distraction, Snow breaks free and races into the nearby woods. Suddenly, everything isn’t what it seems, the line between reality and fantasy begins to blur, and she finds herself in icy Algid–her true home–with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai, none of whom she’s sure she can trust. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she’s destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change the fate of everything…including Snow’s return to the world she once knew.

My thoughts:

I really went back and forth on even writing this review, because it hurts my heart to say negative things about Danielle Paige’s writing. She is one of the sweetest authors I have interacted with, so please remember that I feel that way through this review. In fact, here is a picture of us to make it better (haha):

Now, I was super excited to pick this up at BEA, not only to meet Danielle, but to get to read it because I loved the Dorothy Must Die series. I read some negative reviews before starting, but chose to ignore them and give it my all as I usually do. I was pretty interested for the first several chapters, but then I kept finding my mind wandering. Still, I stuck with it and read, but just could not make myself be interested in what was going on or invested in the characters. I think I would have liked a little more background on Snow and a little more struggle with her trying to learn how to use her newly found magic abilities. I can’t help but think of the scenes from the Twilight series where Bella is learning to use her powers after becoming a vampire as an example of more of what I would have wanted. I’m not sure why it just didn’t sit well with me. I also didn’t care for any of the love interests (and yes there was more than one, even more than two actually) and didn’t find myself rooting for any of them to be the one for Snow. Overall, I just couldn’t stay focused and I feel like I missed a lot of details because I wasn’t paying attention. I don’t think I’ll investigate this series further, but that won’t stop me from purchasing it for my library and letting some students try it out. Maybe it just wasn’t my cup of tea, maybe I just liked Dorothy Must Die so much because I’ve always been a bit obsessed with Wizard of Oz…I’m just not sure. I wouldn’t discourage others from reading this one, I just wouldn’t pick it up again myself. Again, I love Danielle Paige, and I’m sorry that I didn’t love this particular book.

My rating: 2/5

Baby Doll

27415371 Baby Doll by Hollie Overton

**This review is based on an ARC I picked up at BEA in Chicago from the Hachette booth, release date is shown as 7/12/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

Held captive for eight years, Lily has grown from a teenager to an adult in a small basement prison. Her daughter Sky has been a captive her whole life. But one day their captor leaves the deadbolt unlocked.
This is what happens next…
…to her twin sister, to her mother, to her daughter…and to her captor.

My thoughts:

I just picked this book up as I walked by it at BEA because it just had a cover on it that said “Escape is just the beginning”, so I was intrigued. I am trying my best to read all the ARCs I picked up, and this was a short one, so it was easy to sit down and read it quickly. It was interesting enough that I read it in 2 sittings, but it did have its flaws. I’ll get to this in a second.

At the beginning of the book, Lily escapes from her captor of 8 years, makes sense with what the cover said, so that was fine.  However, I think her escape seemed a little too easy…but that’s just me wanting some suspense I guess. She makes it back to her family and the story goes from there, focusing on the aftermath for Lily, her daughter Sky, her twin Abby, and her mother mostly. There are some other characters that you hear from, as the story is told in the different viewpoints each chapter.

I do feel that some of the things that happened in this book were fairly far-fetched for how I would imagine things would really be like…but, also, how would I know what it would be like, right?  The middle part of the book could have been a little more interesting, but I’m not sure how, so I’m not going to critique it much. Things started to get pretty intense toward the end and I thought that it ended nicely. I like that the captor was someone that people would have never thought, which made things interesting. All that being said, this book was obviously good enough to keep me reading half of it at a time, so I would recommend it to those who like suspense, kidnapping stories, etc.

My rating: 4/5

 

First Comes Love

26192467 First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley and from BEA, release date 6/28/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

Growing up, Josie and Meredith Garland shared a loving, if sometimes contentious relationship. Josie was impulsive, spirited, and outgoing; Meredith hardworking, thoughtful, and reserved. When tragedy strikes their family, their different responses to the event splinter their delicate bond.
Fifteen years later, Josie and Meredith are in their late thirties, following very different paths. Josie, a first grade teacher, is single—and this close to swearing off dating for good. What she wants more than the right guy, however, is to become a mother—a feeling that is heightened when her ex-boyfriend’s daughter ends up in her class. Determined to have the future she’s always wanted, Josie decides to take matters into her own hands.
On the outside, Meredith is the model daughter with the perfect life. A successful attorney, she’s married to a wonderful man, and together they’re raising a beautiful four-year-old daughter. Yet lately, Meredith feels dissatisfied and restless, secretly wondering if she chose the life that was expected of her rather than the one she truly desired.
As the anniversary of their tragedy looms and painful secrets from the past begin to surface, Josie and Meredith must not only confront the issues that divide them, but also come to terms with their own choices. In their journey toward understanding and forgiveness, both sisters discover they need each other more than they knew . . . and that in the recipe for true happiness, love always comes first.

My thoughts:
I have read all of Emily Giffin’s books, except the one right before this (going back to it as soon as I get a chance though), and have always enjoyed her writing. I got the chance to meet Emily and get this book signed while at BEA in Chicago, so I was super excited to read and review it.

I really liked this book and found myself excited to get back to it each evening before bed. I found myself really relating to Josie, since I started out as an elementary teacher (before moving to the high school level) and am still single, though not actively searching/needing a man like she thought she did. I have a very similar personality as well, so I found her chapters especially enjoyable. Emily also did her research on teaching (or maybe she has a background I’m not aware of!) and was accurate about the life of a teacher. I also found the dynamic among the two sisters quite entertaining, though Meredith was highly unlikeable for me (because I am pretty much her opposite, like Josie). It is always interesting to read about two sisters so different, as this is certainly the case in real life with my sister and me. Not that my sister is like Meredith either, we are just extremely different from one another.

Meredith is the more uptight, boring sister in this particular story…she has the life that Josie thinks she wants, but she is not happy with it herself. Throughout the book, she is trying to figure out where she went wrong and how she can be happy in the future. It is certainly a struggle, as she knows she has it good in the eyes of most other people. Josie struggles throughout the story for Meredith’s approval, while they both are trying to figure out how to move on from a tragedy that happened 15 years ago.

If you don’t like books with alternating viewpoints, you may not like this format, but I tend to like this style; since a lot of Young Adult books that I read are that way, I have become accustomed to it. I would say that it’s safe to say this is my favorite Emily Giffin book thus far and I have already recommended it to my own sister and mom, and I will be telling friends about it also. If you are looking for a great summer read, and if you enjoy a family story, then pick this one up for sure! I am hoping maybe we will get to read more about these sisters in future books. 🙂

My rating: 5/5