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review 2018-05-10 18:42
Solid new mystery from B.A.Paris with nothing too groundbreaking, BUT resounding sense of sorrow and sadness at ending
Bring Me Back: A Novel - B.A. Paris

I love a good mystery and especially ones that are set in England (where I am from), written by British authors, and somehow they keep making their way to me for review; pretty convenient actually. I say keep them coming honestly. I'm a pretty good litmus test for whether the Brit lingo is going to work well here (plus it always wins bonus points from me).

So Bring Me Back, with its beautiful bright yellow cover, along with some standout pink font, is the the third novel from B.A. Paris, and judging from her past successes, this will catch the eye of many mystery fans for many reasons beyond the cover.
It has a very simple premise really: a couple is away on holiday, skiing in Megeve, France, and then are driving back home through France to England. They make a stop for the toilets (at a rest area) at night, and that’s when Layla goes missing, and Finn goes looking for her, and reports her as missing…she is never seen or heard from again, and in some minds, presumed dead. Finn is cleared as a suspect, but it seems that could be from some of the embellishments he told the French police.
The novel is written from Finn's perspective, at least at the beginning; we are given accounts of Before Layla, and Now/After Layla. He is now, at least in theory, years away from what happened at that rest stop, and is about to marry Layla's sister Ellen, but it seems that he is still obsessed with Layla's disappearance, as well as it being obvious he's not wholly in love with Ellen. Finn isn't the most endearing character, since he is not entirely trustworthy and too neurotic to be that type of protagonist. But as the reader, we realize he doesn’t know the full truth about what happened that night at the rest stop.
Suddenly, these tiny (Matryoska) nesting Russian dolls start appearing in Finn's life, popping up in the strangest of places, at the bar of the local pub, on the wall outside their house; these are a sign of something that Ellen and Layla shared as children, and when Finn starts getting cryptic emails from someone, it's all too much. He has too many theories. Is Layla alive?

After about halfway through the book the tone and pace change, and while I felt a few dragging parts (Finn's neurotic brain!), the mystery unfolds evenly, with a great big thunderbolt at the end. My heart really left this book feeling so very sad, for so many reasons; there was a horrific crime of of the past, a number of mistakes of recent past, and then sad stories of the present. Even if you guess towards the end what is happening, I urge that fully read through to the end because that’s where it all comes together in all its sweet sorrow.
Some of the mystery tropes may be familiar (I can't name for spoilers) but this was an engaging, if heart-wrenching at the end, read.

*Note: I received a wonderful surprise early copy of this from St. Martin’s Press. Thank you! This does not affect my views or opinions.


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review 2018-04-29 07:50
Heart-wrenching book about a young Lithuanian girl during WWII; describes a forgotten chapter we should not rush to forget
Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys

I read this as one of the picks for the Litsy (Team YA) Postal Book Club I am in, and am glad it was chosen, even though I often do not choose historical fiction much these days to read. Especially when I expect it to bring me to tears (or remind me how little I know about how the Soviets and Stalin played their dastardly part in WWII).

Given that this book is several years old now, has won countless awards, and it seems as though everyone else who reads YA has already read it, I barely need to say much about the premise.

Young Lina is deported by the Soviets from Lithuania, along with her brother and mother, but her father gets separated from them to elsewhere in Eastern Europe. The book tells of their long long train ride bringing them to outer Siberia and the horrific trials that her family and other deportees go through. They are emblematic of a past that has been covered up and forgotten among war stories, probably due to so many other horrors (particularly due to Hitler, the Nazis, and the Holocaust).

What Sepetys has written here though, is very relatable account, that I think many younger readers will be drawn to, and have been already; Lina develops a relationship with a teenage boy while deported, has the regular range of emotions you would expect from a teenager, and her love for her family, especially her missing Papa, is fierce.

And while I did not expect the full horrific descriptions I might see in an adult novel on this matter (for example, deaths, burials, etc.), there is enough here to make the reader feel angry, revolted, and incredibly heartbroken at many things that went on.

Since this novel is based on actual people and events (and Sepetys mentions the research and journeys she went on at the end), it is especially thought-provoking and meaningful. There were so very many people affected by the first and second world wars, particularly across Europe, I can hardly imagine how many individual stories like this exist. At least go and read one of them and remember what happened.

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review 2013-11-05 00:00
Lemonade: Inspired by Actual Events
Lemonade: Inspired by Actual Events - Bernard L. Dillard Received a copy of Lemonade By Bernard L. Dillard through the First Reads Giveaway

The author does a great job of utilizing a conversational tone throughout the book. He manages to inform the reader of the various intricacies while living within his troubled childhood environment.

"It takes a village to raise a child." African proverb

The presence of family is a recurring theme throughout the novel. When I say family, I don't mean family as the government census bureau would suggest or that of a white suburban family. In this novel Bernard talked of a family with respect to, how he coined it "mentee's". From neighbourhood elder overseers, to adopted pastors found through travels, and other saints found along the way. In a lot of ways this book unraveled much like the film A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints. You are born into your immediate family, and the majority of the time they want nothing but the best for you, However; their are times when the responsibility is thrust upon you to recognize the positive influences and the way in which they can guide you in achieving your dreams.

The initial narrative seems to come through the eyes of the child at the time the events are unfolding. Their is no implication by me that the style is amateurish I am saying that it sounds as if Bernard at that time is speaking to you. Their are moments of present age Bernard reflecting on the past with insightful commentaries, but for the most part it is spoken from the youngsters narrative. One problem I had was the presence of "thesaurusesque" type of words that kind of stuck out for me while reading. I understand the temptation to use more grandiose type of vocabulary but if the tone is childlike with a playful,hopeful, and approachable type of tone then the presence of bigger words tend to lose their efficiency and purpose. As Bernard got older the presence of this type of vocabulary seemed more fitting and flowed more naturally as his passion for academia and literature evolved to a grand scale.

The book could have been more concise in certain areas. At times I felt the need to skim certain parts because the talking points did not necessitate having a several page spread.

I don't advocate ever, ever, ever physical confrontation let alone when it involves a woman, but if you have ever worked in the "back of the house" at a restaurant it is incredibly stressful. As an owner of a restaurant the whole day is consumed by the operations so when you get home the last thing someone would want is a verbal reprimand once stepping foot through the door. In the same breath Vicky is also doing heavy lifting with the care taking of three young children as well as working. Simply put I wish the parents in this story knew their marriage was not going to work out before it came to blows for the sake of the children as well as the possibility of maintaining an amicable friendship. Their are references in the novel from Dwayne Sr.'s own blood sister Raquel that he was intolerable and mean. From my gatherings he was more of a despondent, emotionally absent father more so than an angry one.More of a back story would have been appreciated for better comprehension of the roots of his anger.

You know that mother Vicky is quite stubborn and unabashedly so, and you understand Dwayne Sr. is an angry individual but you don't really know the underlying reason for why these heads class; star signs can't be the only trigger. I want to know the whole story to make a better judgment of what is truly going on not just what is at plain sight. Through the earlier passages I feel sorry for Dwayne Sr. and I really shouldn't but the constant barrage from Vicky and work stress makes him more of a sympathetic character early in the book. Again no relationship should be harboured with fear but Vicky exhibited no signs of being submissive she was more of the antagonist in these conflicts.

Throughout my childhood I can justifiably say that I grew up without the emotional presence of my father. He was around but it seemed that when not working he spent all of his free time with friends deep into the night. Like Bernard I remember the feeling being in bed that I was the initial line of defense. I had my plan of action if some burglars/bad people broke into the home that was until my father got home and I could finally take a breath,get to bed and come to terms with the fact that my job as mother/brother/pet/baseball card protector was over. What a relief!!! At thirteen my dad left my mom for another woman. It's funny because he left, but he was seeing that same woman while he was still married to my mom so his reason for leaving remains unclear. During my formative years becoming a man without the emotional and physical presence of his dad was tough. While reading about Bernard's issues with his father I really could relate and felt a certain kinship towards him, not just by the apparent reasons but more so in the way he handled situations emotionally with his father.

Some miscellaneous notes I would like to single out. I really appreciated Bernard's outline of the affects related to children growing up in a "fatherless" home. My father grew up when prejudice was an obvious reality rather than the subtle, yet very present reality of today. One of my earliest memories was him hysterically laughing at Martin dealing with Shenenee and how my dad would say "Martinnnn" like how Tisha Campbell would, maybe Bernard could help me with the phonetics. For me The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air remains one of my favorite sitcoms of all time.

I also enjoyed his discussion about the peculiarities of the people that live in New York how they look at tourists, mama Vicky's "vacay" and events found in the daily Brooklyn Olympics.

To answer a question posed by Bernard in the book I was sitting on my exercise ball enjoying a glass of red wine, feeling pretty good for that matter while I was listening to Barack Obama's victory speech. I was amazed at the grip he had at the surrounding audience as well as the grip he had on a Canadian boy from a city outside of Toronto, you could say it was the wine that made me so emotionally entranced but I say it was the need for change and the power of Barack.

Bernard's passage on pages 305 and 306 was the most important for me and would like to thank him for that.

Bernard's presence of mind in that beauty fades but generalized additive models lasts forever is a very short-term approach to living life in the moment and is often undertaken by hopeful dreamers with less than stellar educational credentials. For Bernard I believe he made the correct decision.

Lemonade is truly the ultimate success story, similar to that of a fairy tale in that you don't believe it to be true and you were waiting for him to get the girl at the end. Congratulations Bernard, and thank you for helping me learn how to transform lemons into something that is oh so sweet.
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