[Book Review] When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

Book Review of When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen
When We Were Worthy
Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

“When the sound of sirens cuts through a cool fall night, the small town of Worthy, Georgia, hurtles from triumph to tragedy. Just hours before, they’d watched the Wildcats score a winning touchdown. Now, they’re faced with the deaths of three cheerleaders–their promising lives cut short in a fatal crash. And the boy in the other car–the only one to survive–is believed to be at fault. As rumors begin to fly and accusations spin, allegiances form and long-kept secrets emerge. At the center of the whirlwind are four women, each grappling with loss, regret, shame, and lies: Marglyn, a grieving mother; Darcy, whose son had been behind the wheel; Ava, a substitute teacher with a scandalous secret; and Leah, a cheerleader who should have been in the car with her friends, but wasn’t. If the truth comes out, will it bring redemption–or will it be their downfall?”
My Review:
When We Were Worthy is the SheReads book for September! This book is written by Marybeth Whalen, who is one of the cofounders of www.shereads.org, of which I am a reviewer for. Marybeth has a way of writing people. It’s so fun to delve into her worlds because the characters come to life on the page. It’s the drama, though. Oh, the drama! Do normal neighborhoods have this much drama? In this book, Marybeth takes an unfortunate event (one that’s unfortunately not that uncommon) and then she allows the reader the view the event from several women’s viewpoints. This was one sticky point for me; I could not keep these women straight for the life of me. Every time I got to a new chapter I had to go back and figure out who this woman was and how she fit in the story. I’m not sure why, since they’re all very different, but I had a hard time with this. Once I figured out which woman was which though, the story and the drama intrigued me. I couldn’t put the book down because I had to know what would happen next. At first I thought I related to Ava because she was a substitute at the school, and she had little children, and her family was very important to her. Oh yeah, and then I learned her little secret, and I decided I didn’t relate to her much at all. As the story unfolds, you learn more about each woman, her past, and her present situation, and you watch her growth through the rest of the book. None of us like these trials we have in life, but trials make us grow stronger, and they help us learn vital things about ourselves and others. It was also interesting to watch the men in these women’s lives. Some of them learned and grew better because of it, and some of them took wrong turns. Trials also help us put our lives in perspective and help us to focus on our priorities. Or, they can send us spinning out of control, causing us to lose what is most important to us. I think it’s important not to allow the latter to happen. Use the trials in your life to help you grow and strengthen your talents, and to focus on what’s really important in life. Ok, I’m getting a little more philosophical than I thought I would with this review. Oops! Sorry! Can you tell I’ve been going through a little adversity myself lately? Anyway, even though it’s a tragic situation, I enjoyed the book. I loved delving into the world of Worthy, Georgia. I thought the book was well written and the characters were very well developed. I enjoyed this book a lot.
Here’s the trailer for the book:
Rating: R (This book is not appropriate for younger readers. There is at least one “f” word, and there is some other profanity, but not much. There are some very adult themes in this book, along with a rape.)
Recommendation: Adult
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
“Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily’s fierce-hearted black “stand-in mother,” Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina–a town that holds the secret to her mother’s past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna.” 
My Review:
I love this book!!!! It has some kind of a hold on me, it’s strange, but I love it! I love the writing. Sue Monk Kidd is an excellent writer. I love the detail, the description, the characters, the plot, the feeling, everything…..except the language. The first 50 pages have A LOT of language in them. After that it isn’t too bad; there are a few words here and there. If you want to read it but don’t want to read the first 50 pages then call me and I’ll tell you what happens. Or, the summary above sums it up pretty well. I love how true to life it seems, even though it happened many years before I was born. I love the conflict in each of the characters. The character development is excellent. Each of the women feel like your best friend or next door neighbor. I also enjoyed watching the growth that each of the characters made over the course of the book. The symbolism with the bees is a wonderful addition that adds depth to the story. I just really love this book. Okay, I hope you don’t get your expectations too high now, but it’s really good.
Rating: R (Remember….this rating does not follow the actual movie ratings…it’s just my method of saying it is not appropriate for younger readers.) There is A LOT of language in the first 50 pages and I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who doesn’t want to read a lot of language, and it is not appropriate for children or early teens. Language, some racial conflict, and death.
Recommendation: I would recommend it (with the warning above) to 18+ years. I definitely recommend it, even if you need to skip the first 50 pages!
*This review was first published on 2/23/10


Silence by Deborah Lytton
“Stella was born to sing. Someday Broadway. Even though she’s only a sophomore at a new high school, her voice has given her the status as a “cool kid.” But then a tragic accident renders her deaf. She can’t hear herself sing not to mention speak. She can’t hear anything. Silence What happens when everything you’ve dreamed of and hoped for is shattered in a single moment? Enter Hayden, the boy with blond curls who stutters. He’s treated like an outcast because he’s not “normal.” And, yet, Stella feels an attraction to him that she can’t explain. As Hayden reaches out to help Stella discover a world without sound, his own tragic past warns him to keep a distance. But their connection is undeniable. Can the boy who stutters and the girl who’s deaf ever find a happily-ever-after? Silence is a story of friendship and hope with a lesson that sometimes a tragedy can help us find beauty and love in unexpected places.”
My Review:
I enjoyed this book! I was a little annoyed at the beginning because Ms. Lytton’s writing style is very different. She uses a. lot. of. short. sentences. A lot. Many of the sentences are not actually sentences, but fragments of sentences. It was annoying at first, but then as I got into the story I didn’t notice it as much. The characters in this book are well developed. They are high school students, so there is some “high school” talk, but a lot of it is actually quite insightful. Both Stella and Hayden experience a lot of growth and learning about themselves and each other in this book. They learn to trust, to hope, and to let go of preconceived notions. They learn to look at the world differently. I love the messages in this book. I love the lesson of not letting your experiences defeat you, but learning and growing from them. One thing that was a little difficult for me to get past sometimes was their age. Stella is only 15, and Hayden is only 17. Many of us adults know that “teenage love” is very different from a long, lasting, forever relationship. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but many teens think it is, and later find out that it is not. So, it would be interesting to read a sequel to this book and see what happens to them in the future. I think just a few years older would have made their insights and depth more believable in some parts. I did like that their relationship started as a friendship and grew from there. I don’t want my kids to be that involved in high school, but I know it happens. I want them focusing on learning and preparing for college, and going on dates with lots of friends. However, I did enjoy the story. I finished it in a weekend, and couldn’t put it down at the end. It was a little predictable, but such a sweet love story. 
Another great thing about this book is that it is clean! Yes! Thank you! There is no profanity and no “intimacy.” There might be a few stolen kisses, but it doesn’t go more than that. They both actually attend church and pray occasionally, so there is a little bit of a religious theme. There is some domestic violence and abuse, and it’s hard to read. The abuse is bad, but it involves hitting, cutting, hurting, and broken bones. There isn’t any sexual abuse. There are only a few times that it goes more in depth with it, the other times you know it’s there but don’t know the details. 
Rating: PG 13 (Domestic violence and abuse involving hitting, cutting, hurting, and broken bones.)
Recommendation: 13 and up. It is YA approved. (I have a 13 year-old son, and I am ok with him reading this. I will be discussing it with him, though. I think it will be a good opportunity to talk about abuse and the horrible consequences it has. I will not allow my 11 year-old son to read it quite yet.)

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Secrets of Midwives

The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth
“Meet Neva Bradley, a third-generation midwife, daughter to Grace, granddaughter to Floss, and the reserved twenty-nine-year-old beauty and soon-to-be-mother at the center of Sally Hepworth’s The Secrets of Midwives…Neva is thirty weeks pregnant when her mother and grandmother discover the secret she’s been hiding: a bulging belly beneath her forgiving hospital scrubs. Neva, however, is still determined to keep all other details surrounding her pregnancy secret, and refuses to divulge the father’s identity to her family or her co-workers at St. Mary’s Hospital. “I’ll be raising this baby alone,” she says. “For all intents and purposes, there’s no father. Just me.” Grace, however, finds it impossible to let the secret rest. Suspecting one of Neva’s co-workers is the father, Grace presses Neva for more information, clamors for clues and, in the process, unintentionally distances herself from her daughter. Amidst Neva’s displeasure with her, Grace comes under investigation by the Board of Nursing and her license is suspended following a complaint made by an antagonistic doctor. Ignoring her suspension and unbeknownst to her family, Grace continues to deliver babies in secret. For Floss, a retired midwife, Neva’s revelation transports her to a time 60 years earlier when she became embroiled in the affairs of her best friend, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth’s husband–affairs which, if revealed, will have life-changing consequences for Floss and her family.”
My Review:
Are there any men here? Men, you are excused. This book is not for you, so you are off the hook! Now, are they gone? We can continue :)…If you mothers are like me at all, you jump at the chance to share your birthing stories with whoever will listen. It’s especially fun to listen and compare, right? Well, this book is kind of like that; it’s a whole book of birthing stories from different perspectives. It’s different and kind of fun! I loved Neva from the start, and was hooked on this book from the beginning. Neva is very likable and mostly realistic. She seems just like your neighbor two doors down that you chat with on your way to the mailbox or the park. She has a fun personality, and I liked her a lot. Grace is a little less likable. She has a few rougher edges and can get a little annoying. She does not like ob/gyns or hospitals. At. All. She hates them, in fact. This does get a little old at times. Floss is a cute lady. She seems to have a good relationship with Neva and usually with Grace as well. She is homosexual and has a partner named Lil. I loved Patrick! He’s a sweetheart. Every girl needs a Patrick! The story interweaves the perspectives of Neva, Grace, and Floss. They each have secrets, and some are more predictable than others. However, I thought they intermingled well, and there was enough to keep me hooked. I couldn’t put the book down! This is just a cute, fun book. It is very heavy on birthing and birthing details. If you haven’t had children then this book may be too much for you. It also has a strong (very strong) angle against doctors and hospitals. Grace hates them, as I said. Neva is a little less judgmental and a little more understanding. She works in a birthing center which is attached to the hospital, so she interacts with doctors and ob/gyns all the time. She helps to even things out a bit, but this book definitely advocates home births with midwives and no doctors or hospitals. It might have bugged me more, but I just tried to take it as another perspective. I hope women will do their research and make their own decisions, and not let a fictional book make their decisions for them. There was a scene where I thought they were a little too careless with the home birth, but the other ones seemed fine. This would be a great book group book! I enjoyed this book. It doesn’t have any powerful themes (except for home birthing and midwives), except maybe that telling the truth from the beginning may be the best answer. It’s entertaining and different. 
I was so excited that for the first 153 pages there was no profanity! I noticed when the first word was because it surprised me. Unfortunately, it was an “f” word. Out of nowhere. Lame. And unneeded. Then toward the end there is another one. There are a few other words, but that’s it. Lame. It would have been better without those few words. There is “intimacy” in this book as well. Those babies have to be conceived somehow, right? So, yes, there are a couple of scenes and discussions about it. There is also some domestic violence.
Rating: R (This book is not appropriate for younger readers. Profanity, including the “f” word, “intimacy” scenes and discussions about. Also, lots of birthing details.)
Recommendation: Adult Women (The men might faint if they read this……:)
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Gift

The Gift by Richard Paul Evans
“Nathan Hurst hated Christmas. For the rest of the world it was a day of joy and celebration; for Nathan it was simply a reminder of the event that destroyed his childhood until a snowstorm, a cancelled flight, and an unexpected meeting with a young mother and her very special son would show him that Christmas is indeed the season of miracles.”

My review:

Wow. This book is full of emotions: happiness, sadness, hope, love, relief, nervousness, and belief. I like the writing style in this book. It’s easy to read and just sucks you into the story. The characters are developed well and are realistic. I liked Nathan at first, but the more you get to know him the more you learn about him, and the more you like him. I liked Addison a lot. She just seems like a normal, everyday mom who works hard and is trying to make the best of the situation she is in. I liked Collin and Elizabeth too, especially Collin. He is so sweet and giving. I really liked Miche as well. She’s awesome. This story is a little cheesy in parts, but it’s okay! It’s a good, sweet cheese that melts your heart. It’s a wonderful story of learning to accept who you are, forgive others and yourself, and move on after tragedy strikes. It’s a story of enjoying life and not taking the people in our lives for granted. I enjoyed being drawn into this world. There are so many lessons to be learned, and it definitely makes you hug your family a little tighter. I got this book at the library for Christmas (Yes, I’ve had it since Christmas…..it took me awhile to get to it.), and my 13 year-old son read it. He kept saying I had to read it, so I finally got to it. I’m glad I did. I do wish I had read it before he did because there are some heavier topics that I would have liked to discuss with him, but he seemed to do okay with it. It is kind of a Christmas story, but is also not a Christmas story, so it can be enjoyed at any time throughout the year.

There isn’t any profanity in this book (thank you!), there isn’t any “intimacy” either. There is one domestic violence scene that involves some yelling, pushing, and a small cut. There is also a scene where a man is confronted about his sexual harassment. It’s not too detailed.

Rating: PG+ (No profanity or “intimacy,” but there is a slightly violent domestic violence scene and a scene where a man is confronted about his sexual harassment.)

Recommendation: 12-13 years-old an up. You may want to read it before your kids do, just to make sure your child is mature enough. My 13 year-old didn’t like the ending, but did fine with it.

The Other Shakespeare

The Other Shakespeare by Lea Rachel
“What if Shakespeare had been born a woman? What would have happened to her? And, what would she have accomplished? Virginia Woolf first posed these questions in her acclaimed novel A Room of One’s Own…and now maverick author Lea Rachel steps up to tell the rest of the story. The Other Shakespeare carries readers back to the sixteenth century to follow Judith Shakespeare, the older sister of William, as she tries to make a name for herself in a male-dominated society that consistently denies women their independence. Born with as much talent, creativity, and drive as her younger brother, she is stifled by the world around her and ultimately resorts to extreme measures to get accepted and have her talent recognized. Judith’s story is rich with history, conflict, and drama and is sure to appeal to fans of Virginia Woolf, William Shakespeare, and character-driven fiction.”

My Review:

I love reading Shakespeare, so I was excited to read this book. Ms. Rachel did a good job developing the characters in this book. The Shakespeare family, especially, is well developed. You know exactly where they stand on certain issues, and they seem to go well with what I would expect of the time period. I liked William and Mrs. Mountjoy the best. I didn’t really like Judith, which isn’t great since she’s the main character. I thought she was whiny, dramatic, arrogant, naive, and foolish. I liked her more at the beginning, when she and her siblings would play-act outside. After awhile, though, I started liking her less and less. I’m taking a college history class right now so that I can renew my teaching license, and this week I learned about presentism. Presentism is when we look at the past through today’s values, standards, knowledge, etc., and pass judgment on those in the past because of that. It was kind of funny because I know I did that through this entire book. I definitely looked at Judith, and especially the men in the story, that way. I know I shouldn’t because times were very different back then. This book was okay. It wasn’t what I expected, which is fine. However, it just didn’t click for me. I didn’t like Judith at all. I didn’t think it flowed well, and it seemed forced to me. Most of the book is written in “normal” (as in not Shakespearean) language, and then all of a sudden she would insert a quote or a line or two from one of Shakespeare’s plays, and I didn’t think it worked. It seemed forced to me. She would also put a few “anon’s” in to make it try to work, but not all of it was written that way; it was inconsistent. It made it seem a little corny too. I wanted to like this book, but it just didn’t work for me. There were some good things that came out of it though. Looking at the very few opportunities Judith had definitely made me grateful to be a woman today and not back then. My mom tells me stories of not being able to wear pants to school, and I’ve heard stories of women trying to prove themselves even fifty years ago. Today’s world is very different, and I’m thankful for all the women that have gone before me who were trailblazers, and who helped changed the status quo for women in our country.

There is profanity in this book. There is a rape scene, and at least one “intimacy” scene. “Intimacy” is talked about as well. There are also a couple character deaths in this book. There are a few situations in this story that have Shakespearean resolutions. I don’t want to give anything away, so that is all I’ll say, but they were fitting for the story.

Rating: R (This book is not appropriate for younger readers. Profanity, rape, “intimacy,” and a couple of character deaths.)

Recommendation: 17-18 years and up

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Forgotten Garden

Throwback Thursday
This review was originally posted on 3/1/12. I loved this book!!!

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book–a beautiful volume of fairy tales. She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife and raised as their own. On her twenty-first birthday they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and with very little to on on, “Nell” sets out on a journey to England to try to trace her story, to find her real identity. Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family. But it is not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell’s death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled. At Cliff Cottage, on the grounds of Blackhurst Manor, Cassandra discovers the forgotten garden of the book’s title and is able to unlock the secrets of the beautiful book of fairy tales.”

I loved this book! It is very well written and so engaging. It is a little confusing at first trying to figure out who goes to what time period, but in the end it comes together seamlessly. I loved the story and I loved the characters. The storyline is intricate and intimate. The characters are well developed and I felt as though I knew them personally, as if I were on the journey with them. I’m not usually one to try and figure out what happens, I usually just like to read and enjoy the book. With this story, however, I would lie in bed at night trying to piece it together. I would think I had it figured out and then the characters would say or do something that would make me think otherwise. And the cycle continued. In the end, I had a lot of it pieced together, but there were some twists thrown in the end that I hadn’t anticipated.

I thought a lot about family and self worth while reading this book. If I suddenly found out I wasn’t who my family said I was, would it change my relationships with them? Blood doesn’t change who loves you and takes care of you does it? I’m sure I could see myself trying to find my blood relations, but I don’t think I would distance myself like Nell did. Anyway, that was really interesting how each character reacted. I liked that in trying to find Nell, Cassandra was able to find and heal herself as well. I really liked the romantic touch weaved through the story. I found it was interesting how different people saw the same evidence differently, and I liked how the storyline continued through different times and people and never skipped a beat. It was mostly clean. There were a few words throughout, and there was a scene that involved “physical intimacy” of two unmarried people. That whole part of the story is strange, but I guess fits. It definitely made me uncomfortable.

I highly recommend this book! It made me think a lot about how the choices we make not only affect us, but they affect those around us, and they can sometimes set in motion a chain of events we would never have anticipated. Thank you, Ms. Morton, for a very good read!

Rating: PG-13 (Death of a few characters, some language, and “physical intimacy.”)

Recommendation: Senior in High School and up. This is a tricky one. Because of the nature of the “physical intimacy” scene (It doesn’t go into a ton of detail, it’s just the people who are doing it and why they are doing it.), I think the reader should be a little more mature. As an adult, don’t let this description stop you from reading it. I promise, the rest of the book is fabulous and makes up for it.

The Perfect Mother

The Perfect Mother by Nina Darnton
Blurb sent to me from the Publisher:
Being in a country abroad, faced with language and cultural barriers, what is a a mother today when her daughter is involved with a murder investigation. Nina Darnton, seasoned journalist-turned-fiction writer, explores this idea in her upcoming suspense novel, THE PERFECT MOTHER, in which she poses a universal question of motherhood:  do you stand by your children unconditionally, or do you risk uncovering the terrifying truth that you may not know who they really are?

The Perfect Mother is a psychological thriller, inspired by the Amanda Knox case, but centered around the mother, Jennifer Lewis. Jennifer adores her daughter who she’s proudly sent her off on a Princeton Junior Year Abroad program in Seville, Spain. When a middle of the night phone call reveals that her daughter is being held on suspicion of murder, Jennifer rushes to her side, convinced of her daughter’s innocence. But as she sees the case develop But as she investigates the crime, she experiences a roller-coaster of emotions–incredulity, anger, grief, betrayal–as she begins to wonder if she ever really knew her daughter at all.

Mary Higgins Clark calls The Perfect Mother β€œa haunting page-turner that will keep you up all night.” All readers who loved the recent works of Gillian Flynn, Mary Kubica, and Kate Atkinson will be excited to learn about this upcoming release.

My Review:

What a nightmare! I didn’t closely follow the Amanda Knox case, but I cannot imagine going through this situation. Of course, I think it is human nature to think of ourselves as “The Perfect Mother.” We like to have quality activities for our children, we like to help them clean up their messes, we like to be there for them in every moment of need, and we like to do everything we can to take away any source of pain. We don’t want our children to suffer, and we want them to have everything we didn’t have when we grew up. In this book, Jennifer Lewis learns the hard way that sometimes giving our children all the answers may not be the answer. Unfortunately, children must learn for themselves at some point. They need to suffer pain so they can appreciate the good times. They need to learn to think for themselves, and learn to stand on their own two feet without their mothers. ( πŸ™ This is sad and hard, unfortunately…..I’m definitely not good at it.) This book is written fairly well. Ms. Darnton’s writing style pulls you in and definitely grabs your attention. The story line is every parent’s worst nightmare, so it holds your attention. The character development is well done. I liked Jennifer at the beginning of the book, but the further I got into the book, the less I liked her. When she gets that first phone call you just feel so bad for her and her family. The reader sees her as “The Perfect Mother” at that point. As the story goes on, you get a glimpse of her shortcomings, and that’s ok, because no one is perfect. However, something about her attitude or her character changes. It’s not just the imperfections, it’s how she handles them, and you begin to see a darker side of her that’s not so pretty. Jennifer’s husband Mark is an interesting character. It’s kind of funny that there were a few times in the book that I related to him more than I did to Jennifer. He works hard and is gone a lot of the time, but he seems more down to earth and connected to reality than Jennifer is. He is better able to see that their daughter, Emma, may not be who they thought she was. And don’t get me started on Emma. Wow. (Insert sarcasm) What a winner. She is an extremely unlikable character. I really didn’t care if she ended up rotting in jail for the rest of her life. I hoped they’d find her innocent just for her family’s sake, but as for her, I didn’t like her at all. She is ungrateful, arrogant, indifferent, and manipulative. Overall, I liked this book. It has some good lessons in it, and a huge surprise at the end. I won’t tell you what I thought about it because I don’t want to ruin anything, but let’s just say I hope Jennifer doesn’t forget about it. Ahhhh……I want to say more. But I won’t. πŸ™‚

There is profanity in this book, although not a lot. Except there are a couple “f” words. Rape is discussed. Also discussed is a college group that is “intimacy”-related, with a name for that group that is not kid-friendly. “Intimacy” is also discussed, and there is one time that there is a love scene, but there are no details, you just know that they did it. There is also a murder, and it is graphic.

I liked the book, and think it would make for a great book group discussion.
Rating: R (This book is not appropriate for younger readers. Profanity (including a couple “f” words), rape, “intimacy,” and murder.

Recommendation: Adult

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

The Silent Sister

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain
“Riley MacPherson has spent her entire life believing that her older sister Lisa committed suicide as a teenager. It was a belief that helped shape her own childhood and that of her brother. It shaped her view of her family and their dynamics. It influenced her entire life. Now, more than twenty years later, her father has passed away and she’s in New Bern, North Carolina, cleaning out his house when she finds evidence that what she has always believed is not the truth. Lisa is alive. Alive and living under a new identity. But why, exactly, was she on the run all those years ago? What secrets are being kept now, and what will happen if those secrets are revealed? As Riley works to uncover the truth, her discoveries will put into question everything she thought she knew about her family. Riley must decide what the past means for her present, and what she will do with her new-found reality.”

Imagine waking up one morning and finding out that everything you’ve known about your family for your entire life is a lie. A deception. Nothing is actually what you thought it was. This is pretty much what happened to Riley MacPherson. It didn’t happen over night, but it did happen within a few weeks after her father passed away. I can’t even imagine. Not only is Riley dealing with the passing of her father, but she is also dealing with his finances, his estate, and his lies. I could not put this book down. It grabbed hold of me from the beginning, and I was hooked. The writing in this book is so well done. It’s captivating, engaging, and you feel as if you too are caught in this web of lies. The characters come to life on the page. I love that they are so realistic and life-like. They are not perfect, they have their flaws, and yet they are real. Riley could be your next door neighbor. There were a few instances that I felt she accepted her new realities a little too easily, but I think she was desperate and since I’ve never been in that situation, her reactions could be completely realistic. Riley’s brother Danny is an interesting character. I can understand where he is coming from, and why he feels the way he does, and I feel bad for him. He also kind of scares me, actually. I am not sure if I believe his reaction at the end of the book because it seems completely out of character. I don’t know if the feelings he felt in that moment were enough to change his mind that much. Jeannie and Christine are such fun characters, and I think they add a lot to the story. I like that they have history with the family and are there for Riley when she needs their help. Verniece and Tom add a depth to the story, along with a few surprises. They scare me a little as well, especially Tom. I feel bad that he was put in the position he was put in, but I don’t think he deserved what it was that he wanted from Riley. The ending was almost too perfectly put together, but it was decent. I still loved the book.

There really is no way to talk about this book without giving anything away. After I finished it last night I thought and thought about how I could try and describe the situation without spoiling it, and I’m just not sure it’s possible. There’s so much going on, and because so much of it is truth coming out after years of lies, discussing it at all leads to realizations and secrets found out. So, I’m going to leave it at this: I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down. It was a roller coaster of emotions, and at some points I wasn’t really sure who to cheer for. I don’t like feeling as if I’m cheering for the “bad guy,” but is it a “bad guy” or is it a victim or an underdog? I could feel Riley’s emotions with her: anger, confusion, stress, worry, love, fear, a yearning for something other than what she had, sadness, and so many more. The emotional pull of this book leaves you feeling as if you’ve experienced it in person. Ms. Chamberlain’s writing style grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go. Even after I finished the book I couldn’t stop thinking about it. (I’m dying to talk to someone about this book!!! If you read it I’d love to hear your thoughts!)

There isn’t a whole lot of profanity in this book, except for the “f” word. And there are many of those. It is mostly one character who says it. There are a lot at the beginning of the book and a bunch at the end, but the middle of the book doesn’t have as many. The character who uses the word constantly isn’t in the entire book. There is a murder, rape, and some “intimacy” where you know it happens but it doesn’t go into a whole lot of detail. There is also a lesbian relationship. This is the first book I’ve read where the lesbian is the first person narrator, and she falls in love. It doesn’t go into a lot of detail, but enough to know what is going on and to set up the relationship. Overall, I really liked this book. There were a few times I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep reading because of the language and content, but I’m glad I did. I would recommend it if you’re ok with the above warnings.

Rating: R (Language, especially the “f” word, murder, rape, “intimacy,” a lesbian relationship)

Recommendation: Adult. This book is not appropriate for younger readers.

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Fault In Our Stars

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
(Summary taken from the inside of the book jacket) “Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at  Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.”
This book is written very well. It flows well, is easy to read and understand, and yet is also quite complex. The metaphors and literary terms abound in this book. There are also a lot of fabulous vocabulary words. I learned a few new words! The characters are developed well and come to life on the pages. Hazel (I love this name, it is my grandma’s name. She hated it, but I love it.) felt like my best friend or close cousin. She is a typical teenager, and yet she’s not. I love the attention to detail that Mr. Green used when writing her. She’s feisty and tough, and sensitive and caring all at the same time. Augustus was also developed well. He’s a complex guy. He definitely likes his metaphors and takes them to the extreme. At first you want to say, “Yeah, right…..that’s totally fake.” But then as you get to know Augustus better it just fits him. Isaac was a good character to be in there with them. I definitely felt bad for him. I’m not sure why I felt worse for him than I did for Hazel or Augustus, but it may be because of his attitude compared to theirs. I think Van Houten was kind of a weak link in this book. His character was mostly well done, but at the end I got annoyed with him and thought his actions seemed contrary to what he really was. I’m not sure I think his character would have done what he did at the end, and that bothered me. However, people grieve and suffer in their own ways, so I guess you never know what to expect. I began this book only knowing it was about a girl with cancer. (By the way, I don’t know if I’ve ever read a book written by a male with such an accurate female main character. Kudos to Mr. Green for doing a great job with the female attributes, attitudes, emotions, and hormones.) I went into it 99% positive that she would die. Now, I’m not going to spoil it-she may or she may not die- but let’s just say it wasn’t exactly what I thought. It was about 2/3 through that I started thinking that maybe I was wrong. I was surprised and yet I wasn’t. Hahaha…..is that confusing enough? You’ll just need to read it and let me know what you thought. Don’t think you have it completely figured out before you even start. It’s much more complex than you think. I did cry, though. A lot. So there you go. You’ll just need to read it.
There is quite a bit of language in this book. There is one “f” word, a bunch of others, and they take the Lord’s name in vain. There is talk of being a virgin along with an “intimacy” scene. It’s not detailed at all, but it is still there. It’s also difficult to read in some places because of what happens to the characters. 
Rating: PG-13+ (Language, including the “f” word, along with innuendos and an “intimacy” scene)
Recommendation: At least 16 yrs and up. I think I’d feel more comfortable with my kids reading it at 18. I’m finding I’m quite conservative in my age-ratings, but that’s just me.