Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review: The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

The EnchantedThe Enchanted by Rene Denfeld
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This may be one of the most beautifully written novels that I've read in some time. A friend wrote in her review that this book expresses her desire "to see each person, no matter how damaged, as human" which is a perfect description of this novel. It's exploration of violence, abuse and the prison system is simply stunning. The language just WOW'd me. Denfeld's ability to paint a picture with words is simply breathtaking. There were moments that the descriptions left me stunned. I highlighted a TON of passages while reading (which I rarely do anymore since I've begun reading so much via my e-reader).

There is so much in this novel - the damage we do to one another, our path to redemption, our ability to face what's done to us and come out ok, justice, the realities of the legal system. And it's all so interesting and thought-provoking. It's in no way happy or bright but rather dark, heavy and intense. It's not for everyone. If darkness makes you uncomfortable, I'd recommend that you skip this one. There are some moments of light - particularly within the poetic descriptions and some pieces that are ultimately about the triumph of the human spirit.

I can't do this novel justice, no matter what I write. But, it's simply one of the most moving books I've read in ages. Heartbreaking but poetic. It has stuck with me and I suspect it will continue to do so for some time. I highly recommend this one!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Review: Corregidora by Gayl Jones

CorregidoraCorregidora by Gayl Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I heard someone on a podcast (perhaps Book Riot?) mention this as one of those books that will tear you into 100 pieces and devastate you. And now that I've completed it, I completely understand the recommendation. This is a very, very dark novel. One that really is devastating to the reader. The anger and pain in this novel really get into your head as you read. You FEEL it. You experience it. I don't think I can do this one justice in a review. The story explores the long-lasting impact of slavery and violence. It is an intense book that won't be for everyone. There are very intense scenes of violence and sex that may not be for all readers. I definitely recommend this one, particularly if you're a fan of Toni Morrison. There are a lot of similarities between this novel and some of Morrison's work. If you're interested in the exploration of post-slavery feminine identity, I think this might be a good novel for you. Really beautiful and horrific novel.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Review: The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer

The Children's CrusadeThe Children's Crusade by Ann Packer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me a little while to get into this one but once I did, it really delivered. It is a slower paced novel that explores many details and experiences of a family. If you're looking for a fast paced novel, this isn't the right novel for you. By the end, I knew these characters inside and out. The detailed aspects of the novel gave the story a richness that it wouldn't have had without the slow build up.

A family story that explores who we are and how our families can and cannot change us. It's beautifully written and well worth the time it takes to finish. I definitely recommend it if you have the patience to stick with it when it slows down, enjoying its details and savoring the story as it comes together.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Review: The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

The FishermenThe Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel is such a haunting novel ... heartbreaking really. The themes of sibling relationships, grief, and healing were so well explored in this one. This story so effectively reminds the reader of the power of revenge as well as the power of superstition over logic.

Chigozie Obioma has written a beautiful and well nuanced novel that I will not quickly forget. Each character is well drawn and explored. This family will remain with me for some time. The sense of place was elegantly captured by Obioma. Nigeria and the home of this family came alive for me. I felt as if I could see, hear and breathe in the scents through the beautiful language.

It's not a fast paced novel but one that moves slowly and elegantly. I definitely recommend this one and can't wait to read more of Chigozie Obioma's work.

Review: The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

The Book of SpeculationThe Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The cover alone was intriguing but when the description said words like books, librarian, magic, and family ... I was ALL IN. It sounded like something right up my alley. I'm so glad that I picked this one up. It's a book for readers, for people who value books as objects and as a way to escape. But, I will warn you ... it's not a fast-paced thriller of a book. At it's heart, it's a quiet novel about a family over the generations.

The story is told in two narratives - The first is of a librarian who is going through a rough time and is sent an old book that is the log from a traveling carnival from the 18th century. This book contains information about his family and opens the door for his exploration of the history of his family. The second narrative tells the story that is described in the log book that the librarian has in his possession. It's the story of a traveling carnival and the librarian's ancestors. I found myself loving both narratives which I was frankly surprised by. I'm typically drawn to one or the other. But, in this novel, I found myself eager to read both pieces equally.

I'm a little surprised that this is a debut novel - I didn't find all of the little flaws I typically see in a debut. It's a slow, deliberate novel. There isn't much fast action or anything ... it's just a good, solid story told through characters that are quite compelling. There is a darkness in this novel that I found surprising but completely appropriate, given the context of the story. Several reviews I've read of this novel talk about it being slow, boring and tedious. I couldn't disagree more although I understand that this type of novel isn't for everyone. You have to sort of sink into the prose, embrace the world and just go with it. I think it's completely worth the journey.

I found the carnival aspect of the novel to be one of the most compelling aspects - perhaps because most carnival people are a bit different than the average person. There is a sense of family among the carnival acts which allows for rich storytelling and interesting character dynamics. It (almost) made me want to join a carnival!

One of my favorite parts of the novel was finding the bits and pieces of the story that connect both narratives. The mystery and exploration of those things was so interesting to me. I found myself intrigued by all of them - tarot cards, horseshoe crabs, water, and the tides. I loved pulling them all together as I read, loving the sense of collection that it gave me as a reader.

And the bookish pieces, of course, made the story all the more enjoyable for me. The library, the draw of a book, the mystery of a book, the searching and researching ... it all just felt so soothing to me. I felt at home with this book in some way which is why I would argue that this novel is one that may appeal especially to book lovers.

Until I began to write this review, I didn't really realize quite how much I enjoyed it or how much it's stuck with me since finishing it. I don't think this is a book for everyone - if you need fast pacing, this may well not be the book for you. But, if you love books and want to sink into a book that celebrates books and offers a unique and compelling story, I highly recommend this one!


NOTE: I received a galley of this novel from the publisher for an honest review.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Lighter Reads - Mini Reviews

I've read a number of lighter fare novels (pretty much all romances) lately so I thought I'd give a quick update and some mini-reviews on some of those reads ... quite a few of these were read on our Caribbean cruise in May! Enjoy!

Beach TownBeach Town by Mary Kay Andrews
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nice little novel by Mary Kay Andrews - I like this one better than the last couple of her books.

All Lined Up (Rusk University, #1)All Lined Up by Cora Carmack
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First in a romance new series that I found and I liked it quite a bit.

All I Want Is You (Coral Cove, #1)All I Want Is You by Toni Blake
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another new series to me. Not a perfect book but I did enjoy it. I think I'll read one more in the series before I decide whether or not to keep on with this one.

Playing Dirty (Stargazer, #2)Playing Dirty by Jennifer Echols
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one had quite a few flaws but I did enjoy the reading experience. I liked the first one in this series (I think it's a series?) so I'd be willing to keep reading these.

Moonlight on Nightingale Way (On Dublin Street #6)Moonlight on Nightingale Way by Samantha Young
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More of a 3 to 3.5 star read but I rounded up because I love this series and it's so sad that this is the final book. This isn't the best in the entire series but it's a solid ending. Going to miss reading about these folks! If you haven't read this romance series, I highly recommend it.

All Broke Down (Rusk University, #2)All Broke Down by Cora Carmack
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second in the Rusk University (my rating of the first one is above). I actually quite liked this one. I'll keep on with the series.

Suddenly One SummerSuddenly One Summer by Julie James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although this one was less light than most of the romances on this list, it was quite good. It felt like it had more substance than most romances but I'm not sure that I can pinpoint why I feel that way. All in all, it was a good one!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Quick Reviews

Here are a few quick reviews of books I've read lately but haven't had time to review in detail - I'm heading on vacation later this week so I won't be posting for a week or two but I should get lots of reading done so look for lots of reviews coming up in early June!

The Bluest EyeThe Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OK, I get it now. This was my first foray into Toni Morrison's work and now I get it. She's amazing. Her ability to paint a picture with words is just stellar. The themes that she explores in this novel are so important - as important today as it was when she published this novel. If you've been intimidated by Toni Morrison (as I have been after trying to read Beloved in high school), this is a great place to start. This was a wonderful exploration of beauty, womanhood, love and the internalization of hate. I highly recommend this one! I can't wait to work my way through all of her novels!

The Walls Around UsThe Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very well written YA novel - dark, twisty and engaging! So glad I'm not a teenager any more! Very disturbing novel but disturbing in the best way! Didn't want to put this one down! Very well conceived and delivered! I am looking forward to reading more of Nova Ren Suma's work! Very smart and nuanced YA! Definitely recommend this one (and the cover is so beautiful, right??)!

View all my reviews The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy LeagueThe Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a really engaging read that explores some really important things. I think it's a book that most people will enjoy - it's very well written narrative non-fiction. Such a tragic story that I highly recommend!

Where Women Are KingsWhere Women Are Kings by Christie Watson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although this isn't a perfect book, I really think it was a really engaging read that I truly didn't want to put down. I'll try to do a more robust review some time but I did want to recommend it. There is a lot of thoughtful exploration of themes here - faith, child abuse, foster care, adoption, mental illness and more. Really glad that I read this one.

The Mistake (Off-Campus, #2)The Mistake by Elle Kennedy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really enjoying this new adult romance series.

Overruled (The Legal Briefs, #1)Overruled by Emma Chase
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first in a new series - I really enjoyed this romance. I enjoyed that part of it took place in DC which is close to home for me!

Chase Me (Broke and Beautiful, #1)Chase Me by Tessa Bailey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another new to me series that I'm really enjoying.

Need Me (Broke and Beautiful, #2)Need Me by Tessa Bailey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second in Tessa Bailey's Broke and Beautiful series. Really liking these!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Review: Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College TownMissoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I will pretty much read anything Jon Krakauer publishes, regardless of the topic he explores. He writes non-fiction that reads like really great fiction. This book is no exception. What an important exploration of rape and the justice system, using Missoula as a case study! After working with sexual assault victims for many years, this book really resonated with the experiences that I saw with my own clients (and a few friends who experienced rape & didn't have great experiences with the justice system).

This book covers a difficult topic, but one that we all have a responsibility to understand. The trauma of rape is bad enough but the fact that most victims are traumatized even more by the justice system's inability to effectively help them and society's lack of understanding about the impact of rape is something that should make us sick. I am so glad that Krakauer has taken the time to write this book which I hope will help those with little to no knowledge of the impact of rape to women, families and communities, will come out of reading this with more understanding and EMPATHY for the victims of these atrocious crimes.

This isn't an issue that impacts only women - it's one that affects all of us. I appreciate what Krakauer has done with this book to bring focus to an issue that really needs better understanding. I highly recommend this one to everyone!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Review: Sweetland by Michael Crummey

SweetlandSweetland by Michael Crummey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although the description of this one didn't do much for me, I kept hearing such good things that my curiosity got the best of me. And I'm so glad that I read this one. Such a beautiful story ... so beautifully written.

I didn't understand much of the history of resettlement in Newfoundland but this novel made that very history come alive with the amazing people in this novel. This novel is rather quiet (for the most part) ... it's focus on a small community and the many personalities within that community can make it feel like a small story. It has such strength and beauty. The people, the landscape, the sense of solitude that the writing brings. It's certainly not a loud, fast paced book so if you're looking for that, this isn't the book for you. But, if you want something lyrical, beautiful and full of meaning ... pick this one up.

The themes of memory, solitude, community and home are so well done with this novel. Michael Crummey's ability to weave these themes into such beautiful writing is just astounding. I found the story to be a meditation on solitude and change. Such a beautiful story that I'm so glad I gave a chance! Quietly impactful is a good description of this one for me!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Review: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A Little LifeA Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wish I could give 10 stars on Goodreads. This book deserves far more than just 5 stars! This book has flown up to the top of my ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOKS list! This one is definitely worthy of all of the hype it's received.

This is an amazing, searing, emotional, and devastating book. It's the kind of book that makes you sob. That tears at your heart and soul. That will stay with you. I read this over a month ago and I'm still thinking about it. The characters in this novel will stay with me for some time.

The story centers around a man, Jude, and his friends in NY. It's about the relationships between these people and how they love and hurt one another over time. It's about friendship, survival, tragedy and healing. Jude is a man who has been hurt in unimaginable ways and how that hurt impacts his life, his friendships and his work. If you are uncomfortable reading about child abuse or the impact of that abuse on adults, this is not the book for you. It's very raw and dark and difficult. It's not for everyone. I don't find it to be gratuitous as it really helps you to better understand the characters and their journeys. But, I would only read this one if you think you can read difficult material. The content can be, at times, very brutal. Be forewarned.

This was particularly impactful to me because I spent almost 10 years counseling domestic violence and sexual abuse survivors and this story is VERY close to the abuse one of the women that I counseled for years endured over her lifetime. This book did an amazing job of capturing what it's like to live through something so horrible as well as to care about someone who is trying to live with the lifelong affects of such abuse. I've heard folks complain that its not realistic to have endured what the character in this story does but if my work with abuse victims is any indication, I can tell you that some people do horrible things to other people - unimaginable things. And you'd be surprised how often and how much abuse victims are victimized in their lifetimes.

The characters in this novel will stay with me for some time. They are beautifully written, extremely real and just jump off the page. I came to care (and sometimes hate) them so much more than I would have expected. There were passages in this novel that literally took my breath away, made me think about things in new ways and just simply impacted me deeply. I kept re-reading some of them over and over again because they just perfectly stated something in a way that just overwhelmed me. This is one that I will re-read regularly. It's such a beautiful piece of writing and a story that just tore me up. In the way that the best novels tear you up.

I can't recommend this one highly enough. It's a truly amazing novel that just killed me ... I feel almost sad that I've finished it and will never read it again for the first time. It's difficult, heartbreaking, touching, beautiful and evocative! So worth reading ...

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Review: Lawless In Leather by Melanie Scott

Lawless In Leather (New York Saints, #3)Lawless In Leather by Melanie Scott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this novel, the 3rd book in the New York Saints series. It gave me exactly what I've come to expect from Melanie Scott's work - a great story, interesting characters, and witty dialogue! I was eager to read this particular installment as it centers around Malachi who has been a bit more evasive than the others throughout the series. I was eager to learn more about him and better understand his character. I found the romance between him and Raina to be very believable and interesting. They are not my favorite New York Saints couple (I think that has to be Maggie and Alex) but I really did enjoy their story.

I truly love the world that Melanie Scott creates in this series and highly recommend it regardless of whether or not you're a baseball fan. These stories are so fantastic - full of great chemistry and interesting characters. Really great modern romances! Can't wait to see what's coming next ...

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from Net Galley for an honest review.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Tusk That Did the Damage by Tania James

The Tusk That Did the DamageThe Tusk That Did the Damage by Tania James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this novel which gave me an entirely new insight into the ivory trade. I was concerned that having part of the story narrated by an elephant but I think that was a really great way to give a new perspective to the story. Really great story which gave a well rounded look at the impact of the ivory trade on elephants, poachers and those trying to protect the elephants. Definitely recommend this novel, especially if you're interested in elephants or the ivory trade.

Another novel that gives great insight into elephants is Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult which I really loved. These two novels could be great companions to one another.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Review: All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

All My Puny SorrowsAll My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had such big expectations for this novel but I really struggled with it. The themes are right down my alley but something about the execution just didn't quite work for me. I did like how the themes of depression, sisterhood and suicide were explored throughout the novel but I found the novel's voice to be less fluid than I would have liked. I'm having a hard time really capturing what my issues were with this novel other than to say it just didn't work for me. It felt like work to read this one and that ultimately took away from the overall impact of the novel. Where it should have made me feel sad, I just didn't feel much of anything. I never felt that I connected with the story, the characters or anything else. In the end, this one just didn't work for me. I've heard such great things about Miriam Toews and I am eager to pick up something else from her work despite the fact that this one just wasn't what I'd hoped it would be.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Review: Trisha's Table

Trisha's Table: My Feel-Good Favorites for a Balanced LifeTrisha's Table: My Feel-Good Favorites for a Balanced Life by Trisha Yearwood
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is my first Trisha Yearwood cookbook. I really enjoy her show on the Food Network so I was eager to check this out. Overall, this is a good cookbook, not great but quite good.

The book itself is constructed very well - the photos are fantastic as is the design. I do wish every recipe had a photo but most of them do in this cookbook. The quality is high on the production of this cookbook. It looks and feels great.

Although there were quite a few recipes that I liked, there were more that didn't appeal to me. I was hoping for something that I didn't find ... I liked that they are fairly simple and easy recipes. But, nothing really jumped out at me as I looked through it. I found it to be more basic in its approach so perhaps it's better for those who aren't as experienced in cooking.

But, I do think it's worth checking out if you're a Trisha fan and enjoy her style of food (from her show). It's not a bad cookbook but it just wasn't what I was hoping for.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Blog Tour, Giveaway & Revie: The One That Got Away by Bethany Chase

Publication Date: March 31, 2015
Publisher: Ballantine Books


Perfect for fans of Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner, this bright, funny debut from a fresh voice in fiction offers a delicious take on love, family, and what it means to build a home of one’s own.

Sarina Mahler thinks she has her life all nailed down: a growing architecture practice in Austin, Texas, and an any-day-now proposal from her loving boyfriend, Noah. She’s well on her way to having the family she’s hoped for since her mother’s death ten years ago. But with Noah on a temporary assignment abroad and retired Olympic swimmer—and former flame—Eamon Roy back in town asking her to renovate his new fixer-upper, Sarina’s life takes an unexpected turn. Eamon proves to be Sarina’s dream client, someone who instinctively trusts every one of her choices—and Sarina is reminded of all the reasons she was first drawn to him back in the day. Suddenly her carefully planned future with Noah seems a little less than perfect. And when tragedy strikes, Sarina is left reeling. With her world completely upended, she is forced to question what she truly wants in life—and in love.

Full of both humor and heartbreak, The One That Got Away is the story of one woman’s discovery that, sometimes, life is what happens when you leave the blueprints behind.

About the Author:

A native of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Bethany Chase headed to Williams College for an English degree and somehow came out the other side an interior designer. When she’s not writing or designing, you can usually find her in a karaoke bar. She lives with her lovely husband and occasionally psychotic cat in Brooklyn, three flights up. This is her first novel.



If you're interested in a chance to win a free copy of this book, please go here!

My review:

What a wonderful novel! The original description that I read indicated that it might be a good book for fans of Emily Giffen and Jennifer Weiner which drew me in as I love Emily Giffen, in particular. Given this is a debut novel, I was hesitant that this one would have a lot of the problems that I often find in debuts but this one is a solid effort! I honestly COULD NOT PUT THIS DOWN! It was so fantastic! The story was charming, heartwarming, funny and entertaining!

I loved the characters and how Bethany Chase brought them all alive on the page. They felt like flesh and blood to me. I could relate to them and what they were experiencing. The pacing of the novel was really good - building interest and intrigue. Overall, I felt that Bethany Chase took a fairly common romance plot and improved it! She made it funny, endearing and charming! I really enjoyed this story so much and cannot wait to see what Bethany Chase has in store for us in the future! If this book is any indication, I suspect she is going to be added to my list of favorite contemporary romance authors! Really enjoyed this and definitely recommend it!

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

NOTE: I received this book via e-gallery from the publisher for an honest review!

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