ARC Reviews, Book Reviews, Thriller/Suspense/Crime Fiction

Book Review: Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica

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I have discovered that it is fairly hard to review a thriller/suspense novel as you cannot say too much without giving anything away, therefore this going to be short and sweet…

Continue reading “Book Review: Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica”

ARC Reviews, Book Reviews, Historical Fiction

Book Review: The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy

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Author: Sarah McCoy

Paperback: 336 pages

Publisher: Broadway Books (February 9, 2016)

ISBN-10: 0385348924

ISBN-13: 978-0385348928

Amazon // Goodreads

 

Book Synopsis:

When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.
Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance.
Ingeniously plotted to a riveting end, Sarah and Eden’s woven lives connect the past to the present, forcing each of them to define courage, family, love, and legacy in a new way.

My Thoughts:

The Mapmaker’s Children first peeked my interest because it’s  about the daughter of abolitionist  John Brown and the Underground Railroad.   I am fascinated with the American Civil War and am always looking for a good Civil War historical fiction.  I’m a sucker for any HF that give a fresh new perspective on significant events in history.

After finishing The Mapmaker’s Children, I had conflicting feelings.  On one hand, I really did enjoy the book, but on the other there were a few issues holding me back from really loving it.

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First off, let’s talk cover.  There is just something about it that speaks to me.  It just feels warm and soft to me.  I really enjoy how the woman reading the letter is back lit by the window behind her.   I imagine the woman on the cover is Sarah herself reading a letter from dear Freddy by the morning light coming through the window.  A perfect cover for the content of this book.  I also adore the random brush strokes of paint, another good tie-in with the book.  Bravo to McCoy and her cover design team.  I also enjoyed the little creative touches inside the book – documents within the book, the recipe at the end, and the author’s notes were all clever personal touches that I appreciate very much in a book!

The Mapmaker’s Children is the story of two women, Sarah and Eden.  Sarah’s story takes place during the 1860s, while Eden’s takes place in present day.  This is a historical fiction that weaves back and forth between time and different points of view.  While I enjoy this technique, it can be risky.  In my opinion, this method isn’t easy to pull off.  When executed well, you get an amazing book that flows and intertwines two stories, however if not done correctly, you have one story that out shines the other.   In this case, I didn’t feel as if one story outshined the other, actually I enjoyed both stories, however I did not feel like the stories flowed very well together.  Furthermore, the connection between the stories felt forced.  I feel these stories would have been better as two independent books with further development of each story.

Another risky move was choosing to write about a character going through infertility.   The issue here is not the author’s depiction, but rather the character being relatable to the audience.  The majority of people do not know what it’s like to go through infertility, therefore they would not be able understand or connect with a character going this.  McCoy hit the nail on the head with her accurate depiction of how someone who is going through infertility would feel and act.   The fact of the matter is that only those who have been personally effected by infertility would understand the character Eden, whether they went through it themselves, or watched a close family member or friend struggle.  Infertility wears a woman down body and soul.  The hormone induced mood swings, feelings of isolation, estrangement from loved ones, depression, anxiety, etc etc. While reading other reviews of this book, a reoccurring theme was that people did not care for Eden.  They felt she was too cold and bitter, however I saw her as what she really was, emotionally exhausted and broken.  Overall, I really enjoyed Eden’s story.  Over the course of the book, we really see Eden start to heal by breaking down the walls that had been slowly going up over the years.  Eden doesn’t do this alone, but with the help from a neighbor girl, Cleo, and an adopted puppy named Cricket.  Cleo and Cricket give Eden a purpose, and bring Eden out of her dark place.  I really enjoyed Cleo’s character and her relationship with Eden.

Sarah’s story was equally as enjoyable.  I like that she had a srong personality but that she was also flawed by being extremely stubborn.  Actually, I am very similiar to Sarah, so she  was easy to relate to. The romance in Sarah’s story was very well done.  I particularly enjoyed the correspondence by letter between Sarah and her love interest; a friendship which slowly begins to develop into more.  I was fascinated with the different ways in which the UGRR maps were hidden; paintings, quilts, dolls, etc.  Unfortunately this was Sarah’s only contribution to the UGRR… I was expecting Sarah to be a little more involved, or that the story would expand further about the workings of the UGRR, but it didn’t.  It was more of a behind the scenes look, which was gripping, but I would have liked McCoy to have expanded a little more.  Sarah’s story was compelling enough to have stood alone without Eden’s story. 

Bottom Line:  There are two separate stories within The Mapmaker’s Children that would have been better told separately.  I enjoyed this book, but did not love it. Sarah McCoy is definitely a talented writer and storyteller, so I will definitely check out her other works. 


Noteworthy Quotes:

“…when a beating hear stopped, there was no black or white, only blood-red.  The flesh was equal.  It was the character of a man that made him better or worse.”

“Accident, blessing in disguise, fate, fortune, or happenstance – they were definitions of the same: life with no guarantee of happy ending.  What fable and history could agree upon was that everybody was searching for their ever-after, whatever that may be.”


My Rating:

Star ratings (4)

*Thank you to Sarah McCoy and Blogging For Books for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


About the Author:

sarah.pngSARAH McCOY is the New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of The Mapmaker’s Children; The Baker’s Daughter, a 2012 Goodreads Choice Award Best Historical Fiction nominee; the novella “The Branch of Hazel,” featured in the anthology Grand Central; and The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico.

Sarah’s work has been featured in Real Simple, The Millions, Your Health Monthly, Huffington Post and other publications. She has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso.

The daughter of an Army officer, her family was stationed in Germany during her childhood. She calls Virginia home but presently lives with her husband, an Army physician, and dog, Gilbert, in El Paso, Texas.

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Instagram

ARC Reviews, Book Reviews

Book Review: Keep Me Posted

 

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51xRozCtYuL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Author: Lisa Beazley

Hardcover: 320 pages

Publisher: NAL (April 5, 2016)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1101989866

ISBN-13: 978-1101989869

Amazon // Goodreads

Read an excerpt

Book Synopsis

Two sisters share the surprising highs and cringe-worthy lows of social media fame, when their most private thoughts become incredibly public in this fresh and funny debut novel.

Sisters Cassie and Sid Sunday have not done a bang-up job of keeping in touch. In their defense, it hasn’t been easy: life veered in sharply different directions for the once-close sisters. Today, beautiful and big-hearted Sid lives an expat’s life of leisure in far-off Singapore, while harried, iPhone-clutching Cassie can’t seem to make it work as a wife and a mom to twin toddlers in Manhattan.

It doesn’t help that Sid spurns all social media while Cassie is addicted to Facebook. So when Sid issues a challenge to reconnect the old-fashioned way—through real, handwritten letters—Cassie figures, why not?

The experiment exceeds both of their expectations, and the letters become a kind of mutual confessional that have real and soul-satisfying effects. And they just might have the power to help Cassie save her marriage, and give Sid the strength to get her life back on track.

But first, one of Cassie’s infamous lapses in judgment comes back to bite her, and all of the letters wind up the one place you’d never, ever want to see them: the Internet…

My Thoughts…

This book was not at all what I expected, but I was pleasantly surprised.  When I first read the synopsis for Keep Me Posted,  I thought this book was going to focus more on the relationship between the sisters, but I would say this book focuses more on motherhood.

If I had to describe Keep Me Posted in one word, it would be RELATABLE.  Lisa Beazley hit the nail on the head with the main character, Cassie.  It was so easy to identify and sympathize with the common issues she was going through as a new mom and a stay-at-home mother.  I myself have struggled with many of these issues, and am sure many others have as well.  I’ll let you in on a little secret, most of us moms don’t have a clue what we are doing.  None of us have all the answers.  Most of us are in survival mode in the trenches of motherhood.   Beazley captured the essence of what it is like to be a mom.  Being a mother is not all sunshine and rainbows, but it’s worth the craziness.

   I loved how social media was addressed in Keep Me PostedWhen Cassie transitioned from a career woman, to a stay-at-home mother, it was as if she lost touch with the world except through social media.  It was if social media was her only connection to the outside world.   At the start of the book, Cassie is addicted to social media, but by the end of the book, Cassie learns what is really important in life, and that it can’t be found on Facebook.  The sad truth is that social media HAS become an addiction for some people.  People today are so wrapped up in their online worlds, that they are too busy to live in the real world.  People create these perfect digital worlds that depict unrealistic lives.  More often than not, it’s a ruse.   No one’s life is perfect, and it isn’t meant to be.  Life is meant to be REAL.  Keep Me Posted was exactly that, REAL.

I enjoyed Beazley’s wit and humor throughout the book.  I found myself laughing out loud on a few occasions.  Bravo to Beazley for her brilliant sense of humor, particularly the “mom humor.”  See the noteworthy quotes section below to see some of my favorite laugh out loud moments.

I did have a few issues with the book, but they didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of the story.  The writing was decent, especially for a debut novel, but it didn’t blow me away by any means.  A few times, especially in the beginning, I felt like Beazley was throwing in big complicated words that didn’t really fit.  Almost as if she was trying to jazz things up.  This lessened as the book went on.  There were a few parts of the book that I feel should have been omited, or developed further.  Too many loose ends.  Also, I think this book could have been a great dual perspective book.  I wanted to know more about Sid and her experiences.  I think this would only have enhanced the theme of the bond between sisters.

Bottom Line:  If you enjoy light hearted chick-lit with “mom humor,” give Keep Me Posted a try.

Stay-at-home moms unit!  This is our anthem.  This book is for all of you who wear workout clothes every day, feel like they are screwing up their children,  who have forgotten how to interact with other adults, who have had a child lose their shit in public, who have felt judged by their fellow moms, who count down the minutes until bedtime, and to those who crack open that bottle of wine the second their children are asleep. 

Cheers to you!

Noteworthy Quotes:

“The kids were still happily playing Play-Doh (a magical substance, as far as I’m concerned.  I’ve often wondered if it contains a mild sedative, based on the uncharacteristically calm and content behavior my boys exhibit under its spell).”

“Quinn had a stage-five meltdown on the front stoop because I again refused to patronize the Mister Softee ice cream truck that followed us home from the park like a f*ing stalker.  (I’m sorry, but that Mister Softee driver has caused more family strife than a Vegas bachelor party)”


 My Rating: 3.75/5 Stars

*Thank you to NetGalley, Text Publishing, and Lisa Beazley for my digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

 


About the Author

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Lisa traded her corporate communications career for fiction writing when she moved from New York to Singapore with her husband and children. Born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, Lisa has a journalism degree from Ohio University and has lived and worked in Cleveland, Honolulu, and New York City. When she’s not reading or writing, Lisa is sharpening her toad-catching, Lego-building, and deep-breathing skills as the mother of three young boys. Keep Me Posted is her first novel.

 

Website // Facebook // Twitter // lisabeazleykling@gmail.com