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review 2017-05-26 06:02
Review: The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares
The Whole Thing Together - Ann Brashares

Quick review for a somewhat quick read for me, though it felt like I had to push myself through this novel several times. "The Whole Thing Together" has many issues, but I would echo concerns that much of this novel suffers from rampant cliches, insensitive references in the measure of racial attribution (considering it uses a racial slur casually and struggles constantly to accurately and sensitively portray the multiracial character who struggles with her identity) and sexism (slut shaming and odd fixations on physical details of the characters). In addition to those issues, I think the biggest downfall of this novel really came in that I just couldn't find a space to connect with the characters. Not as much as I wanted to, because there were parts of the narrative that had the potential to go interesting places, but never quite reached that point and abruptly halted in places where the development could've provided more intimacy than the narration allowed.

At its heart, "The Whole Thing Together" is a family drama, showcasing teens as well as young adults in a separate sections of the same family struggling through multiple phases and revelations in their lives. Think "Parenthood" or "Brothers and Sisters" in terms of TV dramas, only I think the characters in this novel were far less fleshed out. As ambitious as this narrative sought to be, it tried to take on far too much in a narrow scope, to the point where nothing really worked well. The narrative voices blended far too much for me to truly connect to them (I don't mind third-person omniscient POV, I read it quite often in many genres). I would hesitate to call this YA, it feels more like it straddles the line between YA and New Adult (at least if you think about certain themes tackled in this book).

The surprise revelation towards the ending was emotional, but I honestly think that it could've had more impact if the character constructions were stronger. In the end, it's a narrative with strong intentions, but the execution leaves an unmemorable and sometimes offputting portrayal that doesn't showcase the best of what Brashares can do, and as someone who liked the Sisterhood series, this left me greatly disappointed.

Overall score: 1.5/5 stars.

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.

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review 2017-05-23 21:51
Good Story and Characters
The Sweetheart Kiss - Cheryl Ann Smith The Sweetheart Kiss - Cheryl Ann Smith

Jess was in a wedding she didn’t want to be in with a bride she didn’t like at all and had a headache the minute she put the very ugly bridesmaid dress over her head. Jess wanted alcohol and she had some at the bottom of her tote she had three minutes she just had to get rid of the groomsman # three. Jess knew she needed alcohol to get through Mandy’s wedding. Jess had just been through  health scare but it had ended in good news. Outside of work Jess had kinda going along without a purpose. Her social life was boring and she hadn’t had an adventure in a very long time. After the scare Jess decided it was time to start living Jess hated Mandy at one time they had been friends but then Mandy had slept with Jess’s HS boyfriend- Darren-of two years. Then while walking down the aisle  the groomsman ahead of Jess had been shot. Jess tried to stop the bleeding until the paramedics arrived. Then Detective Sam Wheeler took her to the bride’s suite to be questioned. Sam allowed Jess to change but saw her change because of a mirror. Sam couldn’t help but look and was now aroused as he felt Jess was hot. Jess worked for Brash & Brazen who were the pit bull of the P I trade. One of their P I’s had solved a case Sam was heading at the time. Then they discovered that if the flower girl hadn’t dropped her basket and stopped Jess would have been the one shot. When Jess stopped at the office Sam was already there and had talked to Jess’s boss but her boss wouldn’t make Jess stay away from the case then Jess found a knife in her tire and Sam pulled it out and kept it for evidence in the case and though Sam hated to agree with Jess keeping her close would help close the case since Jess was the person the shooter was after. Then Jess’s apartment was set on fire luckily Jess woke up as the fire detector had not worked. But then they found the batteries had been taken out. She ended up staying with Sam at his house. Then Jess got a dog from the pound who weighed about one hundred and fifty pounds but wasn’t a guard dog but she hoped the dog would scare off the sniper. Then her boss Irving was shot by the sniper. Jess was very angry and even though Irving was alive and had only been shot in his leg Jess loved him like a father /grandfather and someone would pay. Sam is attracted to Jess and even if Jess doesn’t like Sam she does think he is hot.

This was a very good story and I really enjoyed reading this. It did drag a little but still kept reading as it definitely kept my attention all though the story. This was a little predictable but still a good story. I loved that this story had a mystery as well as romance. I also liked the plot a lot. I loved the characters and the ins and outs of this story and I recommend.

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review 2017-05-20 20:37
The Breedling and the City in the Garden
The Breedling and the City in the Garden (The Element Odysseys) - Kimberlee Ann Bastian

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

I thought I’d like this novel more. It has an interesting and probably complex mythos, juxtaposing our world and another, Elemental-like creator powers, a Fates triad, soulcatchers, the Devil, and quite a few more—something I wouldn’t have minded dive in more. However, the way information was revealed was strange: both an info-dump and confusing, which is an unfortunate mix. I don’t doubt that, had it been presented differently, I would’ve warmed up to it.

I don’t mind a book starting in medias res, but here I felt I was thrown into a story without having enough background elements to fully grasp who the characters were, what their roles were, and why they were important. Stingy Jack, the Tales Teller, the Apothecary... After a while, it started to make sense, yet too late into the story for me to have been allowed to care about them, and too little (for instance, the relationship between Buck/Bartholomew and the Shepherdess is only made clearer right at the end; had it been manifest sooner, I may have cared about the Breedling a bit more, I suppose).

Also, some of the decisions the characters made were odd, or at least presented in a way that that made them look like they came out of nowhere, or without subtlety. I was particularly unsure about Charlie’s ‘plan’ involving the speakeasy—it made sense in one way, but not considering the kind of people would go there, as if he couldn’t have thought about that (hint: precisely the kind of people Charlie didn’t want to see near Buck).

The style was the other element that really bothered me. Omniscient point of view isn’t my favourite, so when it comes with a prose I don’t enjoy, I don’t do well with it. Dialogues were often stilted, with characters telling about their past as if they were reading from a book (I never expected Charlie to speak the way he did), and a lot of telling instead of showing. Since there were a lot of heated feelings in the story (grief, tension between gangs, wariness, simmering violence, threats...), this ‘telling’ was all the more obvious.

Nevertheless, there were good parts in the novel. Charlie especially was a relatable character: not perfect for sure, torn between his desire to follow his mother’s wishes (by helping those younger than him) and his wish to be free to live a life of his own—and yet, his natural tendencies always carry him towards taking care of others. He had to go through a lot, dealing with his grief while trying to follow his sense of duty, and no matter what, I definitely cannot fault a person for accepting their responsibilities.

I don’t think I’ll pick the second book though. It’s more a 1.5/2-star read for me.

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text 2017-05-20 17:06
Tattered Loyalties By Carrie Ann Ryan Free!
Tattered Loyalties - Carrie Ann Ryan

When the great war between the Redwoods and the Centrals occurred three decades ago, the Talon Pack risked their lives for the side of good. After tragedy struck, Gideon Brentwood became the Alpha of the Talons. But the Pack’s stability is threatened, and he’s forced to take a mate—only the one fate puts in his path is the woman he shouldn’t want.

Though the daughter of the Redwood Pack’s Beta, Brie Jamenson has known peace for most of her life. When she finds the man who could be her mate, she’s shocked to discover Gideon is the Alpha wolf of the Talon Pack. As a submissive, her strength lies in her heart, not her claws. But if her new Pack disagrees or disapproves of fate’s choice, the consequences could be fatal.

As the worlds Brie and Gideon have always known begin to shift, they must face their challenges together in order to help their Pack and seal their bond. But when the Pack is threatened from the inside, Gideon doesn’t know who he can trust and Brie’s life could be forfeit in the crossfire. It will take the strength of an Alpha and the courage of his mate to realize where true loyalties lie.

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review 2017-05-19 17:15
Book Review - Please Explain Terrorism to Me: A Story for Children, P-E-A-R-L-S of Wisdom for Their Parents
Please Explain Terrorism to Me: A Story for Children, P-E-A-R-L-S of Wisdom for Their Parents - Laurie Zelinger,Ann Israeli

Our Beck Valley Book Review - Please Explain Terrorism to Me: A Story for Children, P-E-A-R-L-S of Wisdom for Their Parents by Laurie Zelinger and Ann Israeli

Prepare*Explain*Answer*Reassure*Listen*Safeguard
The acronym for PEARLS who produce a series of books for parents to share with their children explaining scary topics to help them understand difficult topics. The colourful illustrations which depicts the script help take the edge of the harsh reality off the topic. The way the topic is shown through the eyes of a young person that another young person would understand is exceptional. Also involving the boys friends, school life and family and the discussions along with the situations they protray bring it home to any family.

The books writing and explanations are very easy for anyone to understand and along with the brilliant illustrations make this an exceptionally teaching aid. There is brilliant guidance notes in the book on how to get the best out of it for parents.

Read more on the #book and author here...
http://beckvalleybooks.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/book-review-please-explain-terrorism-to.html

Book Description
Complemented by exquisite, colorful artwork, Dr. Zelinger skillfully crafts an easily relatable children's story using everyday situations, around the oppressive concept of Terrorism in the news. With masterful understanding of the child's world, new and frightening concepts are introduced carefully and gently, with the child's perspective in mind. Dr. Zelinger provides parent coaching to further the dialogue in her P-E-A-R-L-S of Wisdom section (Prepare, Explain, Answer, Reassure, Listen, Safeguard) where caregivers are given scripts to guide them, as well room for individuality. This pioneer book helps children and parents face a critical, often avoided topic with reassurance and calm.
"This book provides the 'PEARLS' of wisdom for parents and children to discuss a scary topic like terrorism in ways that promote healthy and authentic parent-child conversations that yield to mutual respect and bonding."

--Marc A. Brackett, PhD., Director, Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence

"Deep and yet accessible, her remarkable deciphering of the psychological factors that hinder the free communication between parents and children on terrorism is compelling. This fascinating guide amounts to a riveting lesson of clarity and to a masterpiece in bridging the unbridgeable."

--Hon. Yehuda Lancry, Former Ambassador of Israel to the U.N.

"Please Explain 'Terrorism' to Me is a straightforward and down-to-earth treatment of a difficult subject. Dr. Zelinger uses common sense, a simple clarification of the basic issues, and reassurance to provide a deeper understanding of terrorism for kids--without a corresponding rise in anxiety."

--Thomas W. Phelan, Ph.D., Psychologist/Author,

Source: beckvalleybooks.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/book-review-please-explain-terrorism-to.html
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