2016 Book #102 – Faithful by Alice Hoffman

51ol8tqfs5l-_sx329_bo1204203200_Title: Faithful
Author: Alice Hoffman
Date finished: 10/29/16
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Pages in book: 272
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.
What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.
Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.
Alice Hoffman’s “trademark alchemy” (USA TODAY) and her ability to write about the “delicate balance between the everyday world and the extraordinary” (WBUR) make this an unforgettable story. With beautifully crafted prose, Alice Hoffman spins hope from heartbreak in this profoundly moving novel.

My rating:  4.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book is about a girl named Shelby Richmond. The book begins when Shelby has just graduated from high school and follows her life over the next few years. Shelby was driving the car when she and her best friend Helene were involved in an accident and although Helene survived she was irreparably damaged and is now living in a hospital bed at her parents’ house. Shelby blames herself and falls into a deep and violent depression, never wanting to leave her parents’ basement and wishing only to escape from the world. Eventually though she moves to New York City with her boyfriend/drug dealer Ben Kink. From here her life twists down some unexpected paths and somehow she ends up with a comfortable life even though she still feels like she doesn’t deserve happiness.
Overall I just loved this book. I have to be honest though, this one was a hard story for me to get into at first. When the book starts Shelby is so lost in her own grief that it is hard to see past her prickly character. But as the story evolves, the reader becomes connected to Shelby in a deep and intense way. Shelby feels so deeply and is so wounded but as her story progresses and she begins to heal, we fall in love with Shelby and the human being cracking through the shell of her former self. Shelby is so lucky in that there are so many people who care for her, somehow she is able to take her broken life and make something wonderful out of it. I loved her continual dog-napping activities and I loved her relationship with Marvelle and her kids. Shelby may have been a damaged individual but she loved fiercely and was unceasingly loyal. The progression of her character through the story really was just astounding and Hoffman does such a great job of creating a well-rounded character who is nothing if not a survivor. Be warned, this will rip your heart out of your chest, chew it up, and give you back the pieces when its done. I cried the last 1/3 of the book, but it was such a powerful and wonderful story, it was so worth the read! I would definitely recommend this one.

The bottom line: I just loved this book, Shelby as a character was so engaging and it was great to see her character evolve through the story. This was an extremely moving story, definitely keep a box of tissues handy for this one!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #64 – Whiskey & Charlie by Annabel Smith

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Title: Whiskey & Charlie
Author: Annabel Smith
Date finished: 6/27/15
Genre:  Fiction
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Pages in book: 317
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Terryville Public Library

Blurb from the cover:

A captivating debut novel of brothers who have drifted apart and the accident that will determine their future, by an unforgettable new voice in fiction.
Whiskey and Charlie might have come from the same family, but they’d tell you two completely different stories about growing up. Whiskey is everything Charlie is not – bold, daring, carefree – and Charlie blames his twin brother for always stealing the limelight, always getting everything, always pushing Charlie back. By the time the twins reach adulthood, they are barely even speaking to each other.
When they were just boys, the secret language they whispered back and forth over their crackly walkie-talkies connected them, in a way. The two-way alphabet (alpha, bravo, charlie, delta) became their code, their lifeline. But as the brothers grew up, they grew apart.
When Charlie hears that Whiskey has been in a terrible accident and has slipped into a coma, Charlie can’t make sense of it. Who is he without Whiskey? As days and weeks slip by and the chances of Whiskey recovering grow ever more slim, Charlie is forced to consider that he may never get to say all the things he wants to say. A compelling and unforgettable novel about rivalry and redemption, Whiskey & Charlie is perfect for anyone whose family has ever been less than picture-perfect.

My rating: 3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will be counting towards my goal for the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge 2015 checklist under the “a book set during Christmas” check box since most of the story happens in the space between Thanksgiving and just after New Years. Charlie was close with his brother Whiskey when they were younger but now as adults they barely speak to each other. When Whiskey is involved in a freak accident though and ends up badly injured and in a coma, Charlie wants nothing more than to have more time to make amends with his brother. What follows is a combination of Charlie’s memories from his childhood with Whiskey, stories from Whiskey and Charlie interacting as adults leading up to before Whiskey’s accident, and the agonizing progress of Whiskey’s path to recovery.
One of the things I really liked about this book was the use of the NATO phonetic alphabet and its part in how the story was told. Charlie and Whiskey were given walkie-talkies as children and one of their neighbors taught them the NATO phonetic alphabet. That’s actually why Whiskey is called as such and is not called William by anyone but his mother, even though that is his real name. Anyways, each chapter represented one letter in the NATO phonetic alphabet and the story in that chapter was always somehow connected to the word representing that letter in the alphabet. The Bravo chapter was about their pet dog whose name was Bravo, the India chapter was about a job that Charlie and Whiskey worked on together in India, and so forth. I thought that was an interesting and different way to tell the story. That being said, telling the story in this way caused there to be a bit of jumping around between time frames to tie to whatever letter that chapter was for. The flow of the story wasn’t always easy for me to follow. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book but I did notice the issues I was having.
Overall I thought this was a great story. Grief and guilt and forgiveness are major themes in this book and we take an in-depth look at Charlie’s insecurities with the many people in his life. Charlie’s character was a bit frustrating for me because he really did act like he was better than a lot of people in the story, like his feelings were always more important than someone else’s. Other than that though I think this was a good book.
The bottom line: While the subject matter can feel a bit heavy at times, I thought that this was a very true depiction of a family traveling through stages of grief. I would recommend this book.

Link to author website
Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #59 – Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

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Title: Vanishing Girls
Author: Lauren Oliver
Date finished: 6/17/15
Genre: Young Adult – Thriller
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: March 10, 2015
Pages in book: 357
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Terryville Public Library

Blurb from the cover:

New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver delivers a gripping story about two sisters inexorably altered by a terrible accident.
Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara’s beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it’s too late.
In this edgy and compelling novel, Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.

My rating: 3.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book was a little weird. Dara and Nick are supposed to be best friends and sisters and then an accident supposedly marks their separation and they don’t talk to each other for months. Its really what happens right before the accident but you’ll find all that out. Anyway, their supposed to be such good friends but the description of their relationship is awful. Also there is a LOT of underage drinking in this book. Like every person you are introduced with who is in high school is getting drunk on a regular basis. Where are they getting all this alcohol? And do their parents really just not notice that their kids are drunk every weekend? There are a lot of heavy drugs mentioned in connection with Dara as well. I know when parents get divorced they can sometimes become a little more absent in their children’s lives but still, no one besides Nick noticed that there were weird pills in Dara’s room?
Besides the drug thing and the slightly intense sibling rivalry for “best friends,” this book was pretty good. I was hooked fairly quickly, though the first half of the book was a little slower than the second half. I liked the story line and I was interested in what the reason for the accident was and where Madeline Snow was and what the hell was really going on. I can 100% say that I never saw the twist at the end coming and to be honest when it was revealed my first thought was “no way you read that right, better go backwards a little and read it over.” But turns out I read it correctly, it was just a little confusing. The plot twist at the end was a great twist but the way it was done was a little far-reached to me. Still very good though, I usually can see twists coming but I never saw this one coming. 
The bottom line: Eh. It was ok. Not my favorite but wasn’t awful either. There were some things about it that bothered me I little. You could try it I guess.

Link to author website
Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page