Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly – A Book Review

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Before I even start this review, can we just talk about the cover?? Um….

It might be a good idea to judge Paula Daly’s “Keep Your Friends Close” by its cover. Seriously, it goes to crazy town. And not the good crazy town of “Gone Girl,” but more like the half-baked realm of Lifetime. Honestly, this actually would have probably made for a better Lifetime movie than novel (though, I guarantee they already have a film with this exact plot).

Hard-working mother who is focused on success career loses track of her marriage, husband is seduced by her shady “best friend,” life falls to pieces, blah blah. How will she fight back to expose the truth and get her life back? You know the story, and you can probably figure out how it is going to play out. Though the plot may have been a little far-fetched, if Daly had focused on building out realistic characters and created any sense of urgency, the book would have been OK. Instead, what you get is soggy and so predictable that it’s really not much fun to read.

A few spoiler-related thoughts that you are going to have to highlight to read below:
– Who doesn’t know their best friend is crazy? Really? If you have no idea that your best friend has lied about her family, past and all kinds of very basic things, that really makes you a bad friend. 
– I don’t know why Natty fights to keep Sean. He’s really such a loser that she should be counting her blessings that her psychopath friend wants to take him off her hands. 

Launched in the UK before it hits US shelves, I’m curious to see what reviewers across the pond have to say. Available from pre-order from Amazon.com and on shelves in September 2014.

xo The Book Bird

Disclaimer: An advance copy of this book was provided to me for the purpose of review via the Publisher.

Close Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

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Chris Bohjalian is one of my favorite authors, so I was particularly pleased when I was provided advance access to his new novel, “Close Eyes, Hold Hands.” Though the protagonist is a teenaged girl, don’t confuse this for YA literature.*

Emily Shepard is your average under-achieving suburban high-schooler, until the nuclear power plant in her town melts down. Compounding matters, her father, is being singled out as the individual directly at fault. The plot nicely combines a coming of age story with the semi-apocalyptic backdrop of nuclear disaster, in a format that is written for adults. There is adventure without any skimping on the character development. One of the things I enjoy most about Bohjalian as an author, is his ability to write his characters in a way that is believable. Emily comes to life on the pages; she is difficult, irrational and a character I liked spending time with.

Clocking in at a little under 300 pages, I don’t think I would have liked any more or less. While Emily, as the the protagonist, is front and center, it would have been nice for some of the other characters to be a little bit more fleshed out. Yet, at the same time it works– the story is being told from a somewhat self-centered teen, and life becomes very transient following the accident.

One random thought: As someone who does not have a scientific background (I still don’t understand the how microwaves work…), I struggled with understanding what a nuclear meltdown looks like and how it happens. I get that there was an explosion, radioactive fallout, etc but how does that happen? What are the mechanics? Spent some time on Wikipedia afterwards which was helpful, but an appendix or some type of illustration would be cool.

Available for pre-order from Amazon.com and on shelves July 8th.

xo The Book Bird

Disclaimer: I received an advance copy for the purpose of review via the publisher.

*In fact, based on some of the subject matter, I would definitely not recommend this to younger YA readers.