Calling Me Home – Julie Kiebler

15793184Title: Calling Me Home

Author: Julie Kiebler

Published: 2013

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Drama

Age group: Adult

My rating:

Summary:  

A soaring debut interweaving the story of a heartbreaking, forbidden love in 1930s Kentucky with an unlikely modern-day friendship.
Eighty-nine-year-old Isabelle McAllister has a favor to ask her hairdresser Dorrie Curtis. It’s a big one. Isabelle wants Dorrie, a black single mom in her thirties, to drop everything to drive her from her home in Arlington, Texas, to a funeral in Cincinnati. With no clear explanation why. Tomorrow.
Dorrie, fleeing problems of her own and curious whether she can unlock the secrets of Isabelle’s guarded past, scarcely hesitates before agreeing, not knowing it will be a journey that changes both their lives.
Over the years, Dorrie and Isabelle have developed more than just a business relationship. They are friends. But Dorrie, fretting over the new man in her life and her teenage son’s irresponsible choices, still wonders why Isabelle chose her.
Isabelle confesses that, as a willful teen in 1930s Kentucky, she fell deeply in love with Robert Prewitt, a would-be doctor and the black son of her family’s housekeeper—in a town where blacks weren’t allowed after dark. The tale of their forbidden relationship and its tragic consequences makes it clear Dorrie and Isabelle are headed for a gathering of the utmost importance and that the history of Isabelle’s first and greatest love just might help Dorrie find her own way.

My review:

The first reason I picked this book in the first place was it’s time setting. I’m generally interested in what was happening in the society during the World Wars I and II. Naturally, when I choose to read a historical fiction, I expect a more or less truthful interpretation of the events. I like when authors give some details to the general course of life. Of course, I have a necessary amount of knowledge about what was going on in this or that time period. But what I didn’t learn at school was how those historical events influenced ordinary people and their lives. I like that a historical fiction, even though it’s main theme is not to show all the hardships, still gives the time setting a proper introduction and explaining. Not all books, though, manage this for me.

That is the thing with ‘Calling Me Home’. Yes, it deals with a pretty tough subject of racism, and for all its cruelty, the book did a great job telling about it. Still, though, it didn’t make me believe. Like when you read ‘Gone With the Wind’, where Margaret Mitchell builds such a vivid picture of what it was like to be a person with either white or dark skin at that time, you can’t help being overwhelmed and actually feel immersed into that time. You just sympathize with the characters and you care about them and you wish for the best.

I didn’t feel emotionally connected with what was happening in ‘Calling Me Home’. Like I know, it’s a sad story. A white girl and a black boy fall in love at a very severe time, when, even though the Civil War happened many years ago, nothing has changed much for black people. It was very dangerous and rare for the main characters to have this relationship, but to me it felt like the author sacrificed a more vivid portrayal of this situation for parents vs. kids problem, where the kids are determined to do what they want, and the parents’ naturally try to stop them to maintain the family’s reputation.

Isabelle is clearly the starter of all this mess. Robert has been working for her family for a long time, but Isabelle only notices him when he saves her from being raped. Then she becomes obsessed, seriously. Like it is all about Robert now. She stalks him and follows him everywhere, and Robert just gives in one day after trying to make her see reason for several times. Then the two get married secretly and have one night together, before Isabelle’s parents separate them once and for all.

Isabelle and Robert are such one-dimensional characters, there is literally zero information about what they actually are as persons. All there is to know about them, their story and goals are mentioned briefly in the beginning, like some kind of resume, and since then the plot was all about the doomed love story without any character growth.

I didn’t have anything against Robert, while I was reading the story, but young Isabelle simply annoyed me to no end. It was like her obsession with Robert made her completely unreasonable, desperate and selfish. No matter how dangerous this whole marriage could be for Robert and his family, she seemed to not care much. It was all about how much she loved Robert and how she wanted to be with him. Ugh… Ironically, though, she seemed to forget about her love twice in the story, each time after having had sex with Robert. I just couldn’t get over her thinking process. First she says how important Robert is for her, than she has sex with him, they are separated and she’s like ‘Okay! Everything is against us, so we’ll never be together again. I’m not going to try and reach him, I’m just glad we had sex!’ Come on! You sad that you were ready to do anything for your love and now you are all of a sudden became realistic? Don’t give up now! That’s the thing about romance books, that makes us readers swoon over them and love them, because the characters in it are ready to do whatever it takes. Isabelle, though, makes me really suspicious of this supposed love.

So, I got a bit long here, but that was my biggest concern about the book, and I actually would have given it 2 stars if it wasn’t for Dorrie. Dorrie is older Isabelle’s hairdresser, she is black and she has a whole baggage of problems, It’s her kids, her job and all the unfaithful and unreliable men in her life. That is the story I was completely engrossed in. I loved how realistic Dorrie’s life was depicted, I admired her decisions and how strong of a woman she was. I found that I was really struggling through Isabelle’s chapters and was really into Dorrie’s story.

Overall, the book, which was definitely planned as a tear-jerker, failed to get any tears from me. But, surprisingly, I managed to get through with it, and mostly it’s for Dorrie. So, 3 stars here, can’t give more. I was so excited about this book, and now I feel really disappointed.

Raven by Lauren Oliver

16089223Title: Raven

Series: Delirium, Book 2,5

Author: Lauren Oliver

Published: March 5th 2013, HarperCollins

Genre: Dystopia, Romance, Drama

Age group: Young Adult

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Raven (Delirium, #2.5)

Summary:

This captivating 50-page digital-original story set in the world of Lauren Oliver’s New York Times bestselling Delirium series focuses on Raven, the fiery leader of a rebel group in the Wilds.
As a teenager, Raven made the split-second decision to flee across the border to the Wilds, compelled to save an abandoned newborn—a baby girl left for dead and already blue from the cold. When she and the baby are taken in by a band of rebels, Raven finds herself an outsider within a tight-knit group. The only other newcomer is an untrustworthy boy known as the Thief until he finally earns himself a new name: Tack.
Now she and Tack are inseparable, committed to each other, the fledgling rebellion, and a future together. But as they both take center stage in the fight, Raven must decide whether the dangers of the revolution are worth risking her dreams of a peaceful life with Tack.
As her story hurtles back and forth between past and present, Raven transforms from a scared girl newly arrived in the Wilds to the tough leader who helps Lena save former Deliria-Free poster boy Julian Fineman from a death sentence. Whatever the original mission may have been, Raven abides by a conviction that she believes to her core: You always return for the people you love.
By turns surprising, revelatory, and poignant, Raven’s story enriches the Delirium world and resonates with a voice that is as vulnerable as it is strong.

Review:

‘Raven’ is yet another short novel inside of the ‘Delirium’ series by Lauren Oliver, and this one tells a background story of Raven, one of the prominent characters of the second book ‘Pandemonium’.

Anyone who is familiar with the series knows, that these books are about a Dystopian futuristic world, where love and any affections are considered a disease preventing the society’s proper functioning. So every citizen at the age of 18 has to undergo a cure to get rid of the virus called Amor Deliria Nervosa. This procedure has been functioning for many years and appears to be succeeding. But, of course, things are not what they seem, and aside from all these cured and emotionless people, living in their guarded, isolated cities, there are also rebels, or invalids, living in the Wilds, who try to sabotage this whole system.

When the main character of the first book ‘Delirium’, Lena, escapes to the Wilds, she sees this other, free world and meets people, who also managed to get away. Among these people is Raven, who has already spent years in the Wilds. Raven is a tough and strong girl, who at first doesn’t show any weakness or emotions. But as time goes, Lena learns that, just like her, Raven cares very much about her future and people she loves.

I generally like all the short additions to this series, primarily because they don’t focus on Lena, as she has now three long books dedicated to her solely, and her story is thoroughly explored. Instead, it’s nice to get to know more about other characters as well, as they too, naturally, have to survive in the same world as Lena, they also have their struggles with finding what’s wright and wrong.

‘Raven’ is definitely my favorite among the others (‘Hana’ and ‘Annabel’), and this mostly has to do with the story’s total changing of my impression of Raven. I didn’t like her in ‘Pandemonium’, even though she obviously didn’t have it easy, with so many bad stuff happening to her. But she was a closed book to me, and I didn’t have that clear picture of her in my mind, as I have of Lena’s.

This short novel is told from Raven’s point of view, and it finally opened up to me Raven’s inner world. It’s now understandable to me, why Raven is the way she is, and I consider her the true image of an Invalid, a person who continues fighting for her beliefs, no matter how hard and heartbreaking it may turn.

‘Raven’ also turned my attention to another character, mostly overlooked by me in ‘Pandemonium’, Tucker. I didn’t care much about him before, but now I’d love to learn more of his background story. And also Raven and Tucker’s romance was so beautifully written, that now I’m just as worried about their future as I am about Lena and Alex’s.

This is definitely a book worth reading to any fan of the series. It’s pretty short, but it’s quite informative and sort of prepares the reader before continuing with the final installment ‘Requiem’.

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

7812659Title: Safe Haven

Author: Nicholas Sparks

Published: September 14th 2010, Grand Central Publishing

Genre: Romance, Drama

Age group: Adult

Rating: ★ ★ ★

Safe Haven

Summary:

Love hurts. There is nothing as painful as heartbreak. But in order to learn to love again, you must learn to trust again.

When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Beautiful yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships: one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo. Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family.

But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her . . . a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport. With Jo’s empathic and stubborn support, Katie eventually realizes that she must choose between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards . . . and that in the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven.

My review:

Nicholas Sparks is specifically known as the author of solely romantic stories. And while there’s nothing special or particularly new about them, nothing that hasn’t been already written about before, for some reason almost every other book of his has been filmed.

My knowledge of Sparks’s works is based on two of his most popular books – ‘The Notebook’, of course, and ‘A Walk To Remember’. I found this books quite OK, not really amazing, but nice and touching stories, and their movie versions were very romantic. I wouldn’t probably have read anything else by him in the near future, if I wasn’t sort of enchanted by the movie trailer for ‘Safe Haven‘. I can’t even explain why, as it’s quite a familiar type of story, which by the way immediately reminded me of the movie ‘Enough’ with Jennifer Lopez. But it was included in my Movies-To-Watch-This-Year List right away. Maybe it had a lot to do with Josh Duhamel in the main role 🙂

The book starts with a young woman Katie being unhappy in her marriage, no matter what she does, there’s always something to piss her husband off. Katie is used to being constantly hit by him, and with him being a policeman she doesn’t know where to ask for help. So the only possible escape for her is to run away. It actually turns out a very hard thing to do, and once Katie was already caught. But the second time she prepares very thoroughly, and though not without many complications, she manages to hide in a small town Southport, North Carolina.

Katie tries to keep low, so as not to get any attention from the citizens of the town. But soon there are two people who actually get close to her. First it’s her neighbor Jo, a woman in her thirties living alone. The two women quickly get close, and it’s Jo who Katie first tells about her past to. It’s also Jo who convinces Katie to open up her heart to Alex.

Alex is a widower with two kids, his wife died three years ago, and he hasn’t yet moved on from her. But meeting Katie and becoming friends with her makes him believe that he can be happy again. The two get closer as time passes, and Alex gets to know all about the nightmares Katie has once lived in.

While Alex is very optimistic about their future and wants to marry Katie one day, she is still cautious. Katie knows that there’s no way her husband would just let her go, he will eventually find her. And when he does, she will have to run again.

It’s really strange how my perception of this book got really twisted. The things that were supposed to be great and exciting and cute, like Katie and Alex’s romance, the way they find love and happiness in each other, didn’t really make any impression on me. The whole part of the romance was way boring and uninspiring. Sometimes it felt like a retelling of some book, only giving some basic information without spending too much time on emotional aspect. Besides, it was filled with so many unimportant stuff, like how Katie gets to settle down in her new home or her daily routine.

Alex was a really nice character, but I felt he was way undeveloped. It seemed like I only got a brief description of him, and even judging from the short trailer, I can definitely say that I love the movie Alex much better, he seemed more alive. And also the romance seems more passionate on screen, while in the book it’s rushed and plain.

But what I liked about the story is actually Nicholas Sparks’s portrayal of Katie’s husband Kevin. He is a real maniac, simply crazy, and I loved how realistic he felt in the book. I felt both scared and annoyed by him. He is a true psychopath, his inner monologues show how mentally unstable and aggressive he is. This is the character that I think Nicholas Sparks really nailed. In this case I don’t need to see a movie version to imagine him, and it’s sad that the bad character is so great, while the good ones, those at the forefront of the story, are so bland.

I struggled with the most part of the book, there weren’t many exciting scenes, but the ending was really intense. Once again, though, as I’m happy with the way things turned out, I’m also disappointed. First, I’m really skeptical about the way Kevin died, and secondly that twist with Jo was just strange. I know it was supposed to have some big sentimental effect on the reader, but I was like – ‘What???’.

In general, I’m more happy that I’ve read this book as a sort of basis for watching the movie later, but standing by itself this book is quite boring. It definitely wasn’t something I expected.

The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden by Jessica Sorensen

16113791Title: The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden

Series: The Coincidence, Book 1

Author: Jessica Sorensen

Published: December 13th 2012, Jessica Sorensen

Genre: Romance, Drama

Age group: Young Adult

Rating:

The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden (The Coincidence, #1)

Summary:

There are those who don’t get luck handed to them on a shiny platter, who end up in the wrong place at the wrong time, who don’t get saved.

Luck was not on Callie’s side the day of her twelfth birthday when everything was stolen from her. After it’s all over, she locks up her feelings and vows never to tell anyone what happened. Six years later her painful past consumes her life and most days it’s a struggle just to breathe.

For as long as Kayden can remember, suffering in silence was the only way to survive life. As long as he did what he was told, everything was okay. One night, after making a terrible mistake, it seems like his life might be over. Luck was on his side, though, when Callie coincidentally is in the right place at the right time and saves him.

Now he can’t stop thinking about the girl he saw at school, but never really knew. When he ends up at the same college as Callie, he does everything he can to try to get to know her. But Callie is reserved and closed off. The more he tries to be part of her life, the more he realizes Callie might need to be saved.

My review:

Ever since I found out about this book, I was very intrigued by it. Talk about double threat! First of all, I liked this super hot cover, which promised a steamy romance; and secondly, everyone was gushing about this book. The response was overwhelming. You can just check this book’s rating on Goodreads, it’s really high! So, understandably, I couldn’t deny myself in finding out what this whole buzz was about.

The story’s setting is very typical for YA books, there’s a lot of angst. The two main characters, Callie and Kayden, are very conflicted and had very difficult lives while growing up. It’s hinted throughout the course of the story that both of them are victims of physical abuse.

While Callie’s and Kayden’s parents maintain communication with each other, often attending each other’s parties, their kids aren’t friends. Callie is the school’s freak, nobody notices or pays attention to her, because since the age of 12, she suddenly changed, Now she wears some very baggy clothes and cuts her hair short. It’s easier for her that way, and Kayden appears to be among those unaware of her. He doesn’t even know her name, but though he acts like his life is absolutely perfect, in reality it’s not that different from Callie’s.After Callie becomes a witness to his father beating him and helps Kayden out, he finds himself unable to stop thinking about her.

When the school is over, both Callie and Kayden live their homes for college. It’s the thing they’ve been dreaming about for a long time, it’s the way for them to finally be free from their paths. Coincidentally, they end up at the same college, and since then  they start spending more time together and soon become friends and then lovers. But they are nowhere close to their happily-ever-after, as soon they will have to face their demons, and the outcome may not be pretty.

‘The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden’ is the first book in ‘The Coincidence’ series, and personally I’m not excited about this fact. It’s like it’s the new trend for authors now to write book series. And I would have been OK with it, if the series were all great. This fact definitely doesn’t apply to  ‘The Coincidence’. This is only the first installment, and I’ve lost interest in it half way through. To me it was a very unfortunate combination of absolutely unremarkable characters and boring plot.

The characters seemed very inconsistent. In the first part of the book, while Callie and Kayden are at home yet, it’s said about how miserable they are. Callie in particular can’t make herself talk to guys, she hasn’t let anybody touch her for 6 years, and she never opened up about what had happened to her. But then she comes to college, and suddenly it’s like all these 6 years never happened. Now it seems she only spends her time with guys, lets everybody hug her or makes out with Kayden, and her new friend Seth easily gets her to tell him all her secrets. Well, I just needed a proper explanation from the author about the reasons behind this change. What helped Callie to open up?

Besides, I just couldn’t connect to the characters at all. The main reason for it is probably that I didn’t actually know till the very ending about their pasts. It was always some vague flashbacks. But the author definitely wanted her readers to sympathize with Callie and Kayden, so how was I supposed to do that if I didn’t know what happened? But even this could have been forgivable if Callie and Kayden were some admirable persons. But I can’t say that there was anything notable about them, so the whole story was basically based on arousing the reader’s pity, and that’s that.

The final scenes were really harsh and they were clearly used as a supposed cliffhanger to draw attention to the  next installment. But I can predict that again it will be a story full of new sufferings for Callie and Kayden. Only maybe there will now be a happy ending, if the author doesn’t plan on dragging this story further.

Running On Empty by L.B. Simmons

 

16151293Title: Running On Empty

Series: Mending Hearts, Book 1

Author: L.B. Simmons

Published: January 4th 2013, L.B. Simmons

Edition: ebook, 292 pages

Genre: Romance, Drama

Age group: Adult

Rating:

Running On Empty (Mending Hearts #1)

Summary:

I had the perfect life.
Beautiful and loving husband.Three gorgeous little girls.
Successful career.
The only thing missing was the white picket fence. I really wanted that fence. 
Three years ago, I lost that life. I lost my husband. And I lost myself. But, eventually, I found my way through the darkness. I’ve made peace with my new life. I have my girls, and that’s all that matters. They are my world. I have no illusions of ever falling in love again or getting whisked away on a white horse.
But then he came back into my life. On a freakin’ motorcycle.
There’s no way I’ll let him turn my life completely upside down. Absolutely no way.
The question is…
How long can I keep pretending that I’m happy with my life being right-side up?

ii

Being a fan of romance stories, I’m always on the look out for interesting books of this genre. In case of ‘Running On Empty’ I was not only sold onto it’s summary and high ratings on Goodreads, but it’s cover was very pretty and I couldn’t resist.

I typically like this type of setting, when a widowed man or woman with kids finds his/her second chance at love. This story is about Alex, whose husband died in a car crash, leaving her alone to raise three little daughters. Three years have passed since those events, but Alex is nowhere close to moving on. She has put her life on hold, and her only joy are her daughters, who mean the world to her.

The girls (Nycole, 9; Kyndall, 7 and Rylie, 4) are very energetic and fun. They are very playful, but even as young as they are, they would do anything for their mother. I liked them generally, but because there was just too many scenes with them interacting either with each other or Alex, sometimes they seemed like the main characters.

But the kids’ excessive presence in the story also made me more comprehensive of the situation Alex was in. I mean, I don’t know what it’s like to have to raise three daughters all alone, but the story made this situation very realistic and I could imagine how hard it really is.

The kids’ part was also probably the only thing I liked about this book. I still can’t understand why it has such high ratings. For this book being positioned as a romance, it has a pretty weak and unrealistic love story. And this is mostly the problem of the two main characters.

Alex acts unexplainably rude to Blake when she sees him for the first time, and the explanation for this is really lame. He wanted to help her, but she’s all against anybody doing anything for her, so it’s better to scream at people in public places. And Blake supposedly was in love with her since 12(!!!) years old and being now 33, he still can’t forget her. Well I find it very unbelievable and crazy!

Besides, it is told that Alex and Blake were BFFs at school, but when Alex met her future husband, Blake was absolutely forgotten and they never even spoke. Well, then I think they were not as great friends, and again I can’t get this type of situation. Boyfriends are boyfriends, and friends are friends, one doesn’t necessarily exclude the other.

There was also nothing special or unique about Alex or Blake as individuals to make them either likable, or to help me emotionally connect to them. Aside from sympathizing with Alex’s situation, this story didn’t get any emotion from me. It was very predictable. The two characters meet after 16 years of separation, start communicating, become friends again. Then there are love confessions, followed by some drama, of course, and then the expected happy end.

One thing great about this story is that it’s really short, I read it in a couple hours and forgot about it as quickly.

iiFavorite character: None

Favorite quote: “You’ll never have your happy ending unless you’re brave enough to open the book and start your story.”