Tag: Contemporary fiction

Finding Charlie

Finding Charlie
Author: Katie O’Rourke

Narrator: Kaitlin Chin
Published: December 15, 2015
Audiobook

Reviewed By: Jessica
Jessica’s Rating: 3 stars
Dates Read: March 18-25, 2020

Book Description:

It isn’t like Charlie to stay out all night without calling, but maybe Olivia doesn’t know her little sister as well as she thought.

When Charlie vanishes without warning, the people who love her are worried sick. Even if the law considers her an adult at nineteen, Charlie’s still the baby of her already broken family. Older sister Olivia is determined to figure out what’s happened. She finds a lost cell phone, an abandoned car and a shady boyfriend she’s never met before. And he’s not the only secret Charlie’s been keeping.

This disappearance feels uncomfortably familiar, reminding Olivia and her father of another loss years before. But this will be different, Olivia swears. Charlie’s coming back.

Jessica’s Review:

Olivia and Charlie’s mom left them with their father 12 years ago and have not seen her since. And now Charlie is nineteen years old and has gone missing, which is unlike her.  Olivia starts searching for Charlie in her own way, as the police won’t really do anything yet, as Charlie is of age.  During her search Olivia learns more about Charlie than she ever expected. 

This is an unhurried, character driven novel with multiple narrators to give you the story of this family.  The novel’s name has a double meaning as Olivia is searching for Charlie while Charlie is trying to discover who she is.  This novel shows the family life and relationships that all members have.  There is no action involved in the story, so Finding Charlie was slow moving for me and I was losing interest in it, though I did finish the novel. You guys know I Iove a good thriller, but also read other genres (including women’s fiction/contemporary fiction such as Finding Charlie), so this was nothing to fault the novel or author. It just wasn’t really a novel for me. I will be giving O’Rourke another try by reading her collection of short stories Still Life, which is free on Kindle.

Many thanks to the author for granting me an audible copy in exchange for a review. 

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

American Dirt

American Dirt
Author:  Jeanine Cummins
Published: January 21, 2020
Audiobook

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: January 8-February 1, 2020
Jessica’s Rating: 3 stars

Book Description:

También de este lado hay sueños. On this side, too, there are dreams.

Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.

Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy—two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia—trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?

Jessica’s Review:

What must be said first: American Dirt is a work of fiction, and Jeanine Cummins brings us the story of Lydia and her son Luca, who lose their entire family during a quinceañera in the first few chapters of the novel.  From here, Lydia and Luca have no choice but go on a journey of traveling through Mexico to illegally cross the border into the USA.  American Dirt shows how much one mother will go through to save her child at all costs.

At times the novel did drag for me, as it seemed too long.  American Dirt does show the reader who may not be of Hispanic origin how dangerous Mexico is and the perilous journey migrants face as they attempt to cross the border illegally. And most don’t ever make it.  Some of the journey came with extremes and it seemed like Cummins was trying for some extreme shock value to some of what happens to our characters and the others they come across. 

Do read the Author’s Note as Cummins gives us some insight into her wanting to write this story and her family. She is of Puerto Rican descent and her husband was an illegal immigrant.  It took her five years to get American Dirt published.

I listened to the audiobook version and the narrator is Yareli Arizmendi. She is Mexican and narrated the novel with perfection. She gave a voice to the Spanish words for me, which if I had read them myself, I would have butchered the way they were supposed to be said. 

Many thanks to the publishers Flatiron Books and Macmillan Audio for granting me an arc digital download of the novel to listen to.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Author: Jodi Picoult
Published: April 11, 2017
Audiobook

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: May 19-29, 2019
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars

Book Description:

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.

Jessica’s Review:

This is a very intense and difficult read and it will be just as difficult to review because it deals with very sensitive topics: Race and prejudice.  We have three points of view throughout the novel:

Ruth Jefferson- An African American nurse with over 20 years of experience.
Turk Bauer- The father of the newborn and white supremacist.
Kennedy McQuarrie- A white public defender.

We learn about their pasts as well as the current chain of events.  We also meet their families through their backstories.  Turk is very much a character of pure hate. 

Everything with Small Great Things is compelling. You have no idea how Picoult is going to end this story.  The trial is engrossing and I wanted to continue listening to the audiobook.  The climax and ending come out of left field and were so extreme that it was unfortunately not believable.  ‘Stage Three’ which also serves as the Epilogue gave me some chills.

 This is a novel that will keep you thinking about the issue of race long after you have finished it.  There is also an important Author’s Note which I would tell you to read.  Picoult took a risk being a white woman and writing on the issue of race from an African American woman’s perspective, but handled it with grace and well researched with interviews. 

In addition to listening to the audiobook, I also have a UK paperback edition.  This included a short story from Ruth’s childhood where she also dealt with the issue of race. This short story shows how cruel children really can be.

Despite the unbelievable ending, Small Great Things is recommended.  It is supposed to become a movie as some point and I will watch it.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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