Saturday, August 29, 2015

"Orphan #8: A Novel" by Kim van Alkemade

I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting when I started reading Kim van Alkemade's "Orphan #8:A Novel" , but I can tell you that this author's debut novel surpassed any expectations I had! A historical fiction piece spanning the early to mid 1900s, this is the story of the world of New York City's Jewish orphanages. 

In this stunning new historical novel inspired by true events, Kim van Alkemade tells the fascinating story of a woman who must choose between revenge and mercy when she encounters the doctor who subjected her to dangerous medical experiments in a New York City Jewish orphanage years before.
In 1919, Rachel Rabinowitz is a vivacious four-year-old living with her family in a crowded tenement on New York City’s Lower Eastside. When tragedy strikes, Rachel is separated from her brother Sam and sent to a Jewish orphanage where Dr. Mildred Solomon is conducting medical research. Subjected to X-ray treatments that leave her disfigured, Rachel suffers years of cruel harassment from the other orphans. But when she turns fifteen, she runs away to Colorado hoping to find the brother she lost and discovers a family she never knew she had.
Though Rachel believes she’s shut out her painful childhood memories, years later she is confronted with her dark past when she becomes a nurse at Manhattan’s Old Hebrews Home and her patient is none other than the elderly, cancer-stricken Dr. Solomon. Rachel becomes obsessed with making Dr. Solomon acknowledge, and pay for, her wrongdoing. But each passing hour Rachel spends with the old doctor reveal to Rachel the complexities of her own nature. She realizes that a person’s fate—to be one who inflicts harm or one who heals—is not always set in stone.
Lush in historical detail, rich in atmosphere and based on true events, Orphan #8 is a powerful, affecting novel of the unexpected choices we are compelled to make that can shape our destinies. ~ Description taken from Amazon

 As stated above, this book is inspired by true events which had me very intrigued. It wasn't until reading this book and afterwards, doing some very light online research I had no idea this world of orphaned Jews and medical experiments in early 1900 even existed. 

Rachel is an easy character to love and I was immediately engaged in her character. This book alternated between Rachel's childhood past and her current situation. In her current situation she comes to a huge realization that her disfigurement is not some side effect of medical procedure that she needed as a very young child, but rather an experiment on her once perfectly healthy body. She was used merely for research. She was given the name "Number 8" in the study and upon her realization she decides this is the cause of her hard life.

Now a nurse on The Fifth, a hospital floor for the terminally sick and dying at Manhattan's Old Hebrews Home, she discovers she must care for a dying patient that was the cause of all this- the doctor who performed this horrific experiment. She is forced to relive her past and dissect every major moment of her life. She is torn between the ethics of being a nurse and the revenge from a patient where the medical experiment went horribly wrong. From sadness and hatred, to strength and independence, this book takes the reader through a wide range of emotions.

As the story flip flops between past and present the reader slowly gets the full picture of Rachel's life. How she came to be in this situation of carrying for her former doctor. How what this doctor did shaped Rachel's entire life and set forth a sequence of hardships, heartaches and triumphs. Though her past is horrific and sad, she slowly realizes that she wouldn't be the person she is today had it not been for this ghastly doctor.

This book also tells us about the relationship between Rachel and her older brother, Sam. How losing their parents, being separated as orphans, and how being reunited after Rachel is disfigured sets off feelings and emotions that two siblings normally don't have to deal with. The sibling relationship is strained but at the same time is so strong. They are both frustrated and searching for meaning in their lives. They are trying to find their purpose in this world both together and alone.

The author's note tells us that this book is based on the experiences of her grandfather and her mother. It takes a harsh look at the horrible conditions and treatments of orphans in 1920s NYC. The loss of culture a child looses when orphaned. The treatment of women who chose to live outside the realm of "normal" life. So many emotions are brought about in this writing. 

I highly recommend checking out the author's website here and reading through the true stories posted that inspired her to write such a stunning book. 

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes of this book: 

“To Sam I said, “Sometimes I ask myself if there's any limit to the harm that people can do to each other.”
 “No”, he said. “There's no limit.”

I give this book 5 stars. I hope you love it too.
Happy Reading! 

Monday, August 24, 2015

P.J. Parrish's "She's Not There"

Spur of the moment Netgalley request!  "She's Not There" is a whirl wind, emotional ride! Fear, confusion, anger, and sadness are all included in this book by P.J. Parrish. "P.J. Parrish" is actually a pseudonym for two sisters, Kristy Montee and Kelly Nichols, who write books and short stories together. This is a fact I didn't know until after I read the book. That being said, the writing is seamless. I had no idea this book was co-authored because the writing style was perfect. After researching the duo I saw they are critically acclaimed writers with many awards. I plan on reading more stories from these two!

This story revolves around Amelia Tobias who wakes up in a hospital room, battered and bruised, with no memory of who she is or how she got there. Slowly piecing together the slivers of memories she is slowly recalling, she realizes the accident wasn't actually an  accident and that she is in danger. She races from the hospital on a run for her life, but has no idea where to go or who she is running from.

This story is also told, at times, from the point of view of her husband, along with a private investigator named Clay Buchanan (hired by her husband to find her). All three main characters go through a roller coaster of emotions through out the book. Although Amelia is the only one with memory loss, the other two character also have to dissect parts of their past to figure out "what went wrong" and how to get their lives back on track. Surprisingly, the history of the latter two characters don't distract from the main story, which I liked. 

The beginning of the book hooked me, while the middle left me rolling my eyes. Things just go to good and fall into place for Amelia. I wanted her to struggle just a bit more so the story could feel more realistic. I found it hard to root for her sometimes because of the mere fact that she got lucky and things worked out for her just too often. 

The end of the book was a mess of confusion for me. The explanation of how the accident happened, who was involved, and why it all happened just didn't make sense to me. I needed more explanation for it to even be plausible in my mind. I wanted the author(s) to explain more to me. The very end was satisfying, yet also seemed  to be left open for another book? Everything but one little detail comes to a close. That detail is brought up at the very end and made me wonder "will there be another book?". If so I will definitely read it!

This was a fun, easy read. I have been sick the last week (still sick today even) and on antibiotics, steroids and pain meds, so I could follow along even though I wasn't "clear headed". I honestly enjoyed the book even though it was predictable at times and I yearned for more details at other times. It was a book that I wanted to dive into when I opened it, but wasn't a book itching to read and constantly thinking about when it was closed and sitting on my table. A solid 4 stars!

Thanks to Netgalley and Amazon Publishing for allowing me the egalley to read and review! 

Happy Reading! 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

"Everybody Rise" by Stephanie Clifford

The cover! Oh, the cover of this book is what attracted me. It was love at first glance! I love the simplicity of it and the contrasting colors! "Everybody Rise" is Stephanie Clifford's debut novel and after reading the plot summary on Netgalley I decided to go ahead with requesting it to read and review. 

The summary goes like this:

It's 2006 in the Manhattan of the young and glamorous. Money and class are colliding in a city that is about to go over a financial precipice and take much of the country with it. At 26, bright, funny and socially anxious Evelyn Beegan is determined to carve her own path in life and free herself from the influence of her social-climbing mother, who propelled her through prep school and onto the Upper East Side. Evelyn has long felt like an outsider to her privileged peers, but when she gets a job at a social network aimed at the elite, she's forced to embrace them.
Recruiting new members for the site, Evelyn steps into a promised land of Adirondack camps, Newport cottages and Southampton clubs thick with socialites and Wall Streeters. Despite herself, Evelyn finds the lure of belonging intoxicating, and starts trying to pass as old money herself. When her father, a crusading class-action lawyer, is indicted for bribery, Evelyn must contend with her own family's downfall as she keeps up appearances in her new life, grasping with increasing desperation as the ground underneath her begins to give way.
Bracing, hilarious and often poignant, Stephanie Clifford's debut offers a thoroughly modern take on classic American themes - money, ambition, family, friendship - and on the universal longing to fit in.

It sounded pretty good. Chick lit. Not my normal kind of reading material. But interesting none the less. As I have mentioned before, I love books about NYC. A book about elite NYC society sounded interesting. 

This book was a slow start but as the story progressed it was easier to pick up and read. I think I had a hard time liking and relating to the main character, Evelyn. For being in her mid twenties she tended to act like she was in high school with no real knowledge of how the real world works. Her behaviors in life and towards others were just not believable. She is so determined to get to the highest point in this elite society that she is willing to do anything to get there. It was borderline mental. 

I really liked her high school friends that were introduced at the beginning of the book. However, after the story progresses those character are forgotten and we are introduced to new "friends" she makes while climbing the social ladder. Most characters in this book are flat and boring. No character growth or personality. Even Evelyn just seems to wander throughout the entire book with no real energy. She is uninteresting and dull, and overall just not a character that really engaged me as a reader. 

At about the halfway point I realized that I just wasn't excited about finishing this story. It switched back and forth between present and past and went from one location to another. I really wanted to feel more engaged but it just wasn't happening. The characters didn't appeal to me. I, in no way felt sorry or even rooted for the main character. 

It was a good summer read due to the fact it is relatively a quick read about a society and places that most of us are not a part of. It was fun reading about places I will probably never visit and things I will never have the money to do or parties for the wealthy that I will never get invited to. Taking a peak into the world of "old money" is something I think most people have been interested in. Even if it is in a fictional book. 

I give it 3 stars. Nothing phenomenal or even exciting. I wasn't swept away by it and had to will myself to actually finish despite my ridiculously high expectations before starting. It was a satisfying conclusion but came to late for me to truly enjoy it. 

Stephanie Clifford's "Everybody Rise" is available today (August 18, 2015). Get it on Amazon , Barnes & Noble , Itunes, Google Play, or most places where books are sold. 

Thanks to Netgalley and St Martin's Press for allowing me the egalley to read and review! 

Happy Reading! 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

"Trust No One" by Paul Cleave

Remember this blog post about waiting for a really amazing ARC I read? It was back in July when I posted. Well this is the book! It was released on August 4, 2015. Today is August 12, 2015. This "be-a-mom" business of having kids home for the summer and back to school (already!) shopping got me distracted. But it's better to review it a little bit late than never! Great books are meant to be shared!

I purposely made myself relax and go slow while reading this book. I wanted to suck up all the goodness and enjoy the read. Because it's that good! What I really wanted to do was devour the entire thing in one sitting. But I have self control. Sometimes. 

Here is the premise:

Jerry Grey is known to most of the world by his crime writing pseudonym, Henry Cutter-a name that has been keeping readers at the edge of their seats for more than a decade. Recently diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's at the age of forty-nine, Jerry's crime writing days are coming to an end. His twelve books tell stories of brutal murders committed by bad men, of a world out of balance, of victims finding the darkest forms of justice. As his dementia begins to break down the wall between his life and the lives of the characters he has created, Jerry confesses his worst secret: The stories are real. He knows this because he committed the crimes. Those close to him, including the nurses at the care home where he now lives, insist that it is all in his head, that his memory is being toyed with and manipulated by his unfortunate disease. But if that were true, then why are so many bad things happening? Why are people dying?

Seriously. Paul Cleave's "Trust No One" is a genius plot. A best selling crime writer who gets Alzheimer's and then confesses that the murders he wrote about are actually real. This book combines a psychological thriller, murder mystery, mental sickness and even humor then gift wraps it in a big red bow for the reader. 

The book is told from first person point of view and flip flops between present-day Alzheimer's patient Jerry and past (via journal entries) clear headed Jerry . Because he can't be sure that what he remembers is true memories or if it is his fiction writing that is causing memories of murder, the reader gets little bits and pieces via journal entries here and there. Little nuggets of info that leave you trusting absolutely no one, including Jerry himself.

 The reader goes through all the feelings Jerry does. Disbelief and sadness of being diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Shock and horror associated with the "memories" of the brutal murders. Confused and helpless as he realizes he isn't sure what is fact or fiction. Complete frustration when no one around him believes a word he says. Such a clever author Paul Cleave is. 

This was my first Paul Cleave novel but this will definitely not be my last. I look forward to reading more books by him. 5 stars for Trust No One

Thank you to Netgalley and Atria Books for allowing me the egalley to read and review. 

Happy Reading! 

Meg Carter's "The Lies We Tell"

"The Lies We Tell" is the debut book by Meg Carter. While browsing Netgalley one evening I came across this book. The first sentence in the summary caught my eye. The full summary reads:

"For fans of Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, THE LIES WE TELL is an addictive, complex and completely gripping psychological thriller in which present and past intertwine to devastating effect. Forced to revisit the same rocky waters of friendship and power they inhabited when they were fifteen, as the story reaches its explosive climax, Jude and Katy realize that when it comes to memory, truth and family – nothing and no-one are what they seem"

So it pretty much sounded like a great read to me! I honestly hated Gone Girl so bad that I attempted reading it 3 times but never finished. If I recall correctly, Girl On The Train was a 4 star for me. So this book sounded like it could be either in the middle, or a 5 star. Sadly, it was in the middle. 

I mean really, who doesn't like a book that is full of lies and deceit? A mystery to solve and figure out who lied about what and why thy lied at all. It's usually makes for a good read. 

In this case it was just-meh. It took me an extra long time to even get into the book. It switches back and forth between present day and the 1980s. We know something happens when they were young teens, but the book doesn't reveal exactly what is was. By reading and putting pieces together the reader slowly realizes what happens. Too slowly. This book just didn't grip me. It was so slow at times that I lost interest. 

I think the only interesting parts about this book were looking up locations and meanings of uncommon words. The author, I am guessing, is from the UK. Landmarks and neighborhoods are spewed left and right so to get a mental image of where things were happening in the story I looked them up! There is also a ton of wordage that are UK products or slang that I just didn't have a clue about or wasn't sure I quite knew what the author was talking about. It usually really turns me off having to stop and look things up (especially for books written by UK authors) but in this book it didn't bother me. Perhaps I was looking for a distraction from having to slowly continue the story. Or maybe I thought if I could 100% imagine the scenes and story that I could enjoy the book more. Who knows. 

While this wasn't a complete waste of time, it also wasn't a gripping thriller like I expected. 

The Lies We Tell is expected to be released on August 19, 2015.

Thanks to Netgalley and Canelo for allowing the egalley in exchange for my honest review. 

Happy Reading!  

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

"Church of Marvels" by Leslie Parry

For the last 10 minutes I have been writing and re-writing the opening sentence of this review. My mind is racing with all the things I want to say about this book that I don't even know where to start. I guess I should start by telling you that Church of Marvels is Leslie Parry's debut novel. That being said, her plot line is phenomenal! To have a mind like hers and be able to plot and plan a book like this...just WOW!!! 

This story takes place in 1895 New York City. I love books that take place a) in NYC and b) anytime turn-of-the-century through the 1920s. Those facts alone had me interested. Then you throw in characters with interesting and out of the ordinary professions/lives and I immediately fall in love.

Sylvan Threadgill is a night soiler in charge of cleaning out the privies behind tenement houses. He rescues a baby discarded among the muck. Odile Church and her twin sister, Belle, were raised by their mother in The Church of Marvels- a sideshow on Coney Island. The church burns to the ground and their mother dies in the fire. Belle takes off to Manhatten leaving Odile alone, scared and desperate to find her sister. A young woman named Alphie awakes to find she has been locked away in an insane asylum across the river with very little memory of how she got there. She meets another young woman, a patient also on the ward, who can't speak, but who holds a special talent that may be able to help break them both out.

Throughout the book, these characters become entwined. Slowly but surely I began to realize how each where connected to one another. Small (minute) details and questions I had that stuck out while reading  were beautifully and creatively brought to a conclusion I never even imagined. Through love and loss, friendships and loneliness, hope and despair, they all come together in a spectacular way. Even when I thought the author had wrapped up every little morsel of  explanation, another little secret/conclusion is spilled that blew me away! The less you know about the story line, the better this book will be! Trust me. 

The writing style of Parry and the words she uses to describe the sights, smells, and the characters' thoughts and feelings in this book are so engulfing.It's easy to imagine you are right there in late 19th century NYC. She has a magical way with words, even when she describes the horrid, deplorable, and striking conditions of places mentioned in this book. 

I highly recommend this book. This is easily one of my favorite books and I can't wait to read more from Leslie Parry. When you start to read, and near the end, and think you have figured it out, be warned- it doesn't end the way you think it will end. Once the last page is turned this story will haunt your thoughts for the rest of the day. 

Happy Reading!

A special shout-out to my BBF (best book friend) Tessy for recommending this book to me! Love you!