Sometimes I Lie

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Sometimes I Lie

By:  Alice Feeney
Published:  2018
# of pages:  264
Challenges:  Full House (new author from another country: UK)

4stargreen

Goodreads description:

My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me: 
1. I’m in a coma. 
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore. 
3. Sometimes I lie.

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?

My review:  Someone on the Silent Book Club I’m a part of on Facebook mentioned how the newest trend in titles now is the word “lie” or “lying.”  We’ve got The Lying GameOne of Us is LyingLet Me LieLie to Me, etc.  And here is Sometimes I Lie.  For a good part of the book I was a little annoyed by the title.  I felt like there was probably a better title the author could have used.  However, towards the end the title became a lot more appropriate.

I usually don’t read any Goodreads reviews of a book before or even after reading.  However, after you finish this book you will want to talk to someone about it, you will want to read what others have to say.  So I went onto Goodreads.  A lot of people were complaining that it was confusing and they missed the plot twist and had no clue what was going on at the end of the book.  I didn’t feel that way because I followed along pretty well, but I can see why it’s confusing to some people.  This is one of the few books I want to read again just after reading it for the first time.  I probably won’t do that, but it would be interesting to read it again after knowing the plot twists.  Yes, twists plural.  Also, it’s really hard for me to type the word twists for some reason. 😛

The story is about Amber Reynolds, who begins the book with the revelation that she’s in a coma.  She can’t remember what happened in the days before she regained consciousness, but while she is unable to move or communicate in any way, she has plenty of time to try to remember.  The book alternates between NOW, when Amber is in a coma, THEN, which is the days leading up to her coma, and BEFORE, when she was a child.

Some of the reviews I read accused the author of adding too many details to throw off the reader, but I wonder if there was more purpose than we think to many of the descriptions.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the author writes a sequel that explains the ending and other things that happened throughout the novel.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars: Suspenseful and well paced story, interesting characters, plot twists I didn’t see coming.

Mosquitoland

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Mosquitoland

By:  David Arnold
Published:
  2015
# of pages:  352 (Kindle edition)
Challenges:  Monthly Motif (vacation read)
Quote:  “Maybe I could muster the courage to speak those words so few people are able to say: I don’t know why I do the things I do. It’s like that sometimes.”

5stargreen

Goodreads description:

After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the “wastelands” of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland.

So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way. But when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.

My review:  I can’t adequately describe how much I love this book.  I’ve given it a few days to soak in before writing a review, but I still don’t know exactly what to say.  My reaction to this book reminded me of my reaction to Turtles All the Way Down.  The main character, Mim, had a hard struggle with mental health issues in her past just like Aza struggles with her mental health in Turtles.  Mim’s still learning to deal with her health as well as the divorce of her parents and her dad’s sudden remarriage.

She sets out on a journey from Mississippi to Ohio.  Along the way she has all sorts of adventures and meets all sorts of interesting characters, both good and bad.  Not only is Mim a beautiful character, but I loved many of the other characters.  I also appreciate the way Mim is willing to admit when she’s wrong or change her opinion/perspective as needed.  She’s witty and makes profound statements, but that doesn’t change the fact that she’s “just” a teenager who still has more to learn.

While this is a great YA book, it does have some strong “bad language” if that’s a concern.  Also, I found myself at times thinking how great it would be to just run away from responsibilities and go on a spontaneous road trip like Mim’s.  It’s a little concerning to think that some people, especially younger teenagers, might actually consider doing that for real!  Maybe not, maybe it’s just me that has that desire (I do relate to Mim in many ways), but if I gave this to my teen to read I’d make sure to have a little talk about the dangers of a teenager being on his/her own on a cross country trip.  😉

I do highly recommend this to adults and teenagers alike and I think there’s many more positive messages than negative throughout the novel.  Also, I was initially leery of the book based on the cover.  It seemed like one of those contemporary teen books that you see everywhere, but I was amazed at the depth of emotion and thought evident in the writing.  It’s definitely worth giving it a chance.

Why I gave this book 5/5 stars:  Great characters, entertaining story, important messages.

Before We Were Yours

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Before We Were Yours

By:  Lisa Wingate
Published:  2017
# of pages:  334
Challenges:  Full House (dual time line)
Quote:  “Since coming home I’ve readopted words like y’all, which I had expunged from my vocabulary up north. They’re good words, I’ve now decided. Like the humble boiled peanut, they serve perfectly in many situations.”

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Goodreads description:

An engrossing novel inspired by shocking real events—the kidnappings and illegal adoptions of children conducted by the notorious Tennessee Children’s Home Society—Before We Were Yours is a poignant, uplifting tale for readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale.

My review:  Wow, this book was even more shocking and interesting to read just after reading The Girls Who Went Away.  The novel has a dual time line and follows Rill, a 12 year old girl who lives on a riverboat on the Mississippi River, and Avery, a 20-something year old lawyer with a political future in South Carolina.  I’m going to interrupt my review to say that part of the book takes place on Edisto Island, which isn’t far from my grandparents’ house and is where I go a couple of times a year on day trips to the beach.  It’s beautiful there and I loved the descriptions of the SC low country throughout the book.

Back to the review.  One night Rill’s life is turned upside down when her parents suddenly have to leave her in charge of her three younger sisters and baby brother.  Within less than 24 hours, the children find themselves at the Tennessee Children’s Home in Memphis.  Not only are they confused about why they are in the house when they have two loving parents, but they soon find themselves starving, abused, and separated from each other one by one.  It was incredibly hard reading about Rill and her siblings knowing that while Rill was fictional, these stories really did happen to hundreds of children in the earlier 1900s.  But I loved Rill and how realistic her character felt.

Now compare this to Avery Stafford, a successful DC lawyer who came home to South Carolina to follow her father around to train to be a future senator.  Not only has she been raised with the best of the best, she takes it for granted and tries to justify her family’s wealth and comforts whenever she’s confronted with even a hint of criticism.  I’m not going to lie, Avery annoyed the heck out of me for most of the book.  She’s spoiled and even worse, doesn’t think she’s spoiled.  Avery is stressed out dealing with her father’s bad health and training to be a future senator.  Every move she makes is planned out in order to maintain her family’s media and public appearance.  However, her life is also turned upside down when she meets a woman named May.

Instead of continuing her apprenticeship and maintaining appearances, Avery decides to do a little investigating into the past.  In the process she loses most of her entitled attitude and gains an insight into the past and the life of her grandmother.

I recommend this book to everyone because it’s an important part of history that should be learned and remembered.  I had never heard of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, but I’m interested in learning more about it now.  The author includes references in the back of the book that I’d like to check out soon.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Avery was annoying at times, but the other characters were great and the story was well written and an important story to hear.

The Lying Game

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The Lying Game

By:  Ruth Ware
Published:  2017
# of pages:  370

3stargreen

Goodreads description:

On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister…

The next morning, three women in and around London—Fatima, Thea, and Isabel—receive the text they had always hoped would NEVER come, from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only, “I need you.”

The four girls were best friends at Salten, a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel. Each different in their own way, the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game, telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty, with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them. The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict: no lying to each other—ever. Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out. But their little game had consequences, and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school’s eccentric art teacher, Ambrose (who also happens to be Kate’s father).

My review:  I’ve read The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Death of Mrs. Westaway and enjoyed them, so I figured I’d check this book out as well.  This novel is told from Isa’s point of view as she goes back to Salten, the town in which her high school boarding school was located.  She leaves London (and her boyfriend) in a hurry after receiving a text from Kate, who still lives in Salten.  She’s joined by Fatima and Thea to find out just why Kate summoned them back after 17 years.

All of the women are immersed in memories when they arrive at Kate’s house, called The Mill.  Some of the memories are good, the four girls cuddling on the couch in The Mill’s living room, swimming in the sea, and spending time with Kate’s father and stepbrother.  Other memories aren’t so nice.  The mean spirited game they played while at school called The Lying Game.  As high schoolers the girls didn’t always realize the consequences of the game, but as an adult, Isa can’t deny how wrong it was to isolate herself from the majority of her peers.

The book is named after the game, but it really doesn’t have much to do with the main plot of the story.  As a matter of fact, it really doesn’t have anything to do with the women’s present situation.  I wish the past and present had tied together more.  Honestly, for most of the book I wasn’t even too interested in the problem the women faced.  It’s a cool concept for a novel, but it didn’t come across as well as I would have liked.

Anyway, it’s worth reading if you like a somewhat slower paced mystery, but it’s not very suspenseful or fascinating.

Why I gave this book 3/5 stars:  Neat concept for a story, so-so characters, slow paced.

Turtles All the Way Down

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Turtles All the Way Down

By: John Green
Published:  2017
# of pages: 
298
Challenges: 
A to Z
Quote:  “I wanted to tell her that I was getting better, because that was supposed to be the narrative of illness: It was a hurdle you jumped over, or a battle you won. Illness is a story told in the past tense.”  -Aza

5Stars

Goodreads description:

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

My review:  I was amazed to discover that there’s a book about someone like me.  I not only suffer from depression, but also an anxiety disorder.  I also have undiagnosed OCD symptoms, but I know a large part of that is due to the anxiety.  My symptoms and thoughts are like a less exaggerated version of Aza’s, but I was stunned that there’s actually a book out there, written by a popular author, with a main character who struggles with severe anxiety.

This book is about Aza, who suffers from extreme anxiety on a daily basis.  Not only is she navigating high school, friendship, and her relationship with her mom, she’s also dealing with memories of her dad’s death, managing medications, and going to doctor’s appointments.  On top of all that, she is suddenly reintroduced to an old friend of hers, Davis, whose father is missing.  At first she wants to solve the disappearance to split the reward money with her best friend Daisy, but she quickly comes to care for Davis.

The story goes on from there.  I’m biased, but I felt entirely sympathetic for Aza.  The story also tells of her best friend Daisy’s feelings about Aza’s anxiety and shows how her mom feels.  I understand it’s hard living with someone who has anxiety and other mental issues, but nothing compares to living it yourself.

“Felt myself slipping, but even that’s a metaphor. Descending, but that is, too. Can’t describe the feeling itself except to say that I’m not me. Forged in the smithy of someone else’s soul. Please just let me out. Whoever is authoring me, let me up out of this. Anything to be out of this.”

Why I gave this book 5/5 stars:  Well written, unique characters and story, interesting mystery, good representation of mental illness.

 

The Flight Attendant

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The Flight Attendant

By:  Chris Bohjalian
Published:  2018
# of pages:  368
Challenge:  A to ZFull House (thriller)

3Stars

Goodreads description:

Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She’s a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, already counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport. She quietly slides out of bed, careful not to aggravate her already pounding head, and looks at the man she spent the night with. She sees his dark hair. His utter stillness. And blood, a slick, still wet pool on the crisp white sheets. Afraid to call the police–she’s a single woman alone in a hotel room far from home–Cassie begins to lie. She lies as she joins the other flight attendants and pilots in the van. She lies on the way to Paris as she works the first class cabin. She lies to the FBI agents in New York who meet her at the gate. Soon it’s too late to come clean-or face the truth about what really happened back in Dubai. Could she have killed him? If not, who did?

My opinion:  I was pretty excited to read this after seeing the description.  Bohjalian’s novels are hit or miss with me.  A couple I’ve really enjoyed (Midwives and The Sleepwalker) and others I haven’t liked.

Unfortunately I didn’t love this, but it wasn’t bad either.  The story is about Cassie, an alcoholic flight attendant who wakes up next to a murdered man.  The problem is that she was so drunk the night before that she blacked out and has no memory of what happened.

She returns home and navigates through the fact that she lied to investigators and suspects someone is following her.  She admits she’s a liar who drinks too much, but still makes the same mistakes over and over.  Cassie is a very introspective character who underestimates her ability to change.

The odd thing about the story is that all of the action seems to pause until she travels to Rome with the airline she works for and is far from everyone she knows.  Suddenly, everything floods her at once.  It didn’t really make sense to me why the timeline worked the way it did.  I can’t say too much without spoiling, but my theory of what was going to happen did happen…I just didn’t think it made complete sense with the timing.

Overall, it was a fun and easy read and I recommend it as a good book to read while traveling or during a reading slump because it’s really engaging and easy.

Why I gave this book 3/5 stars:  Not the most likable characters, weird timing, convenient turns of events, not terribly original, but also easy to read and fast paced.

The Shell Collector

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The Shell Collector

By:  Hugh Howey
Published:  2014
# of pages:  282

4Stars

Goodreads description:

The ocean is dying. The sea is growing warmer and is gradually rising. Seashells have become so rare that collecting them is now a national obsession. Flawless specimens sell like priceless works of art. Families hunt the tideline in the dark of night with flashlights. Crowds gather on beaches at the lowest of tides, hoping to get lucky.

Supreme among these collectors is Ness Wilde, CEO of Ocean Oil. Ness owns many of the best beaches, and he keeps them to himself. It’s his fault the world turned out this way. And I aim to destroy him.

My name is Maya Walsh. You might be familiar with my shelling column in the Times. I was working on a series of pieces about Mr. Wilde, when out of the blue, he called. He says he wants to talk. But I don’t think he’s going to like what I have to say.

My opinion:  This is my second Hugh Howey book to read this month.  Last week I reviewed Beacon 23, which I loved.  I’ve also read the Wool series and Dust.  However, I just discovered that Howey grew up in the town right next to mine.  When I read the author’s note (while I’m thinking of it, there’s more to the story after the note so make sure to keep reading) for The Shell Collector he mentioned visiting Figure Eight Island in NC when he was a kid, which is the island my husband went to every summer as a child and that I’ve visited several times myself after my husband and I started dating.  I got excited and we looked him up and found out he’s from just down the road.  Pretty cool!

All of that said, I didn’t enjoy The Shell Collector as much as the others I’ve read, but it was still a very interesting concept for a story and a good read.  The story is about Maya, a reporter in a future where the sea levels have drastically risen due to environmental pollution.  Maya has spent years writing a story about the Wilde family, who for generations have controlled the oil drilling industry.  The Wildes have grown rich by polluting the planet and causing the temperature of the oceans to rise, which has killed off many species as well as causing flooding throughout the world.  Maya’s family collected shells to sell when she was a kid because the animals who live in the shells were going extinct and prices for the shells rose.  Maya still loves shelling, a passion shared by Ness Wilde, the current owner of the company he inherited from his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

When Maya has the opportunity to personally interview Ness, she jumps at the chance to confront the man she blames for the destruction of all the oceans.  When she meets Ness face to face, she’s surprised by his seeming to be genuine.  But Maya knows he’s hiding something and she’s determined to find out what.  Her determination leads her on a journey of a lifetime where nothing goes the way she expects.

My main issues with the book are Maya’s all-about-me attitude and the fact that not much really happens in spite of all the adventures.  The future world and society are fascinating and I wish we could have learned more of the science behind it all.  Also, I would have liked to have learned more about Ness’s thoughts and experiences instead of just Maya’s.

Overall, it’s a book worth reading, but nothing super amazing.  I’d also not recommend it as the first book of Howey’s to try.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Cool story concept and world building, but the main character was kind of annoying and the story didn’t go as in depth as I would have liked.

Winter Garden

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Winter Garden

By:  Kristen Hannah
Published:  
2010
# of pages:  394
Challenge:  A to Z, What’s in a Name, Full House (redemption theme)

3Stars

Goodreads description:

Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. One stayed at home to raise her children and manage the family apple orchard: the other followed a dream and traveled the world to become a famous photojournalist. But when their beloved father falls ill, Meredith and Nina find themselves together again, standing alongside their cold, disapproving mother, Anya, who even now, offers no comfort to her daughters. As children, the only connection between them was the Russian fairy tale Anya sometimes told the girls at night. On his deathbed, their father extracts a promise from the women in his life: the fairy tale will be told one last time – and all the way to the end. Thus begins an unexpected journey into the truth of Anya’s life in war-torn Leningrad, more than five decades ago. Alternating between the past and present, Meredith and Nina will finally hear the singular, harrowing story of their mother’s life, and what they learn is a secret so terrible and terrifying that it will shake the very foundation of their family and change who they believe they are.

My opinion:  This book was heartbreaking and had me sobbing towards the end.  I usually don’t mind hard stories, especially stories that take place during real wars.  It’s important to remember history and to hear people’s stories, both real and fiction.  I don’t know much about Russia during the 30s and 40s.  I enjoy WWII books and often read stories that are from the point of view of Americans, British, French, and German people.  But this is the first time I’ve read a book that took place during WWII from a Russian point of view.  I’ve spent some time thinking about the book before writing a review in case my overly emotional reaction was tainting my opinion.  But I still feel like 3 stars is a fair rating and I still feel so discouraged about the overall story for some reason.

The story is about Meredith and Nina, who lose their father and are “stuck” taking care of their emotionally distant mother.  They are also dealing with issues in their romantic relationships that stem from a childhood of emotional neglect by their mother.  Their mom, Anya, tells them a fairy tale in bits and pieces and soon they discover exactly what has shaped their lives over the years.

The first half of the book is slow and repetitive.  The pace quickens in the second half and changes are made in how the characters relate to one another.  We find out more about what happened in the past in Soviet Russia.  Horrible things happened long ago, and while they have shaped the women’s present lives, they still overcome the struggles to emerge as a new family.

While the story lifts at the end, it didn’t make me feel any happier about the depressing stuff.  I think that’s mostly my personal issue, but just know that one of the triggers is childhood death.  I’ve read the author’s book The Nightingale in which something similar happens, but for some reason this was harder for me to read.  Overall, I recommend this if you want to learn more about Soviet Russia, but I liked The Nightingale better.

Why I gave this book 3/5 stars:  Too depressing, repetitive narrative, slow pace in the first half, but the pace picks up and the characters make positive life changes.

The Chemist

31111139The Chemist

By:  Stephenie Meyer
Published: 
2016
# of pages: 
518

4Stars

Goodreads description:

In this gripping page-turner, an ex-agent on the run from her former employers must take one more case to clear her name and save her life.

She used to work for the U.S. government, but very few people ever knew that. An expert in her field, she was one of the darkest secrets of an agency so clandestine it doesn’t even have a name. And when they decided she was a liability, they came for her without warning.

Now, she rarely stays in the same place or uses the same name for long. They’ve killed the only other person she trusted, but something she knows still poses a threat. They want her dead, and soon.

When her former handler offers her a way out, she realizes it’s her only chance to erase the giant target on her back. But it means taking one last job for her ex-employers. To her horror, the information she acquires only makes her situation more dangerous.

Resolving to meet the threat head-on, she prepares for the toughest fight of her life but finds herself falling for a man who can only complicate her likelihood of survival. As she sees her choices being rapidly whittled down, she must apply her unique talents in ways she never dreamed of.

In this tautly plotted novel, Stephenie Meyer creates a fierce and fascinating new heroine with a very specialized skill set. And she shows once again why she’s one of the world’s bestselling authors.


My opinion: 
This has been on my TBR list since last year, but the description didn’t pull me in so much to make it a priority.  Then my mom tried reading it and didn’t like it enough to get through the first few chapters.  So I didn’t have high hopes, but that just meant that I was pleasantly surprised.

The Chemist is about a woman who lives on the run, hiding from assassins.  She used to work for the government and now she knows too much.  Thankfully she’s an amazing scientist who specializes in chemical compounds that can incapacitate or even kill someone.  For four years she’s done a fine job of protecting herself until she lays eyes on the file of Daniel Beach.  Soon she finds herself caught up in a plot she can barely make sense of and now she has to take care of hiding someone else as well.

I’ve heard from my mom and from other reviews that many people find the first few chapters to be slow and boring.  I didn’t feel that way, but I think that most people would definitely find themselves drawn into the story around chapter 5 if not before.

Overall, I thought this was an original idea for a story and I’m impressed that the author did so much research to write this book.  I liked the characters and thought the book was pretty action packed, but still spent time on character and relationship development.


Why I gave this book 4/5 stars: 
Unique and well thought out story, interesting characters, but I didn’t love it as much as my 5 star books.

The Bookshop on the Corner

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The Bookshop on the Corner

By: Jenny Colgan

Published: 2016

# of pages: 332

Challenge: Full House

3Stars

Official description:

Nina Redmond is a literary matchmaker. Pairing a reader with that perfect book is her passion… and also her job. Or at least it was. Until yesterday, she was a librarian in the hectic city. But now the job she loved is no more.
Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile—a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling.

From helping her grumpy landlord deliver a lamb, to sharing picnics with a charming train conductor who serenades her with poetry, Nina discovers there’s plenty of adventure, magic, and soul in a place that’s beginning to feel like home… a place where she just might be able to write her own happy ending.

My opinion: I just can’t get over the fact that this book is titled The Bookshop on the Corner when it is NOT about a bookshop on a corner!  And the cover has a picture of a bookshop building window!  This book tells a cute story about a woman who leaves her secure life to start a business selling books out of a van.  Why isn’t book van/bus in the title?  Or even the name of her business – The Little Shop of Happy-Ever-After?  The van was described as being beautifully decorated.  Why isn’t that on the cover?

But I’ll leave that behind (reluctantly) and finish my review.  I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second half.  It wasn’t anything special, but it was an easy, mindless read that was perfect for my plane trip home from California to North Carolina.

The main character, Nina, is a little whiny, but that’s part of what makes this book more realistic.  I kept thinking of how much I would love to run a successful business selling books in Scotland.  And maybe I would truly love it and wouldn’t complain, but only because I’ve lived a little more and in hindsight would value that lifestyle more.  But Nina is right in the middle of things and doesn’t feel complete with “just” a book selling business in a beautiful region.  But don’t worry, Nina is on a journey that doesn’t end when she physically arrives at her destination.  By the end of the book, she feels complete and experiences her own happy-ever-after ending.

Throughout the description of her journey there were some weird and out of place things included.  I felt as though the author had lots of ideas and rather than fully developing them, decided to just stick them in here and there.  Not all of it made sense.

I would recommend this book to adults looking for a quick, easy read.

Why I gave this book 3/5 stars: Cute story, but it wasn’t developed well.  Also, the title bothers me!

Other reviews:
Have you reviewed this? Let me know and I’d be happy to post yours as well.