Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Review: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

The Year of Magical ThinkingThe Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is so difficult for me. I know this is in many ways seen as a classic memoir that is beloved by many. And I did like it but I didn’t connect with it quite enough to love it. It’s a strange trip to read this book – the journey through grief with someone who can WRITE. There is a lot about what grief is and how it happens to people. But there are also really interesting memories explored by Didion in this one. I can understand why it is beloved but it never quite got there for me. It felt like a very honest look at grief and memory, one that didn’t feel sad or depressing. There was hope in much of this one. There is a lot of pain and sorrow but I didn’t feel as if there was that lost in sorrow feeling in this one. It’s definitely a beautifully told story of the pain of loss and how each of us deals with it in our own individual way. I think it made me think about grief in interesting ways and made me think about my own responses to grief in the past. I do recommend it but I didn’t quite love it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Review: The Day of the Duchess by Sarah MacLean

The Day of the Duchess (Scandal & Scoundrel, #3)The Day of the Duchess by Sarah MacLean
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

READ THIS ONE. Just do it. It’s wonderful as are all of Sarah MacLean’s novels … I recommend every single one of her books one hundred times over. She is a master at writing romance. She writes amazing women and her dialogue is spot on! Although this isn’t my favorite of her novels, they are ALL so good that even the ones that I don’t LOVE are good, solid reads. I recommend all of her series and I do recommend reading them in order if at all possible as it adds to the overall reading experience. So, go get ALL of the books written by Sarah and enjoy them one by one! You won’t regret it!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Review: The Sheikh's Pregnant Fling by Leslie North

The Sheikh's Pregnant Fling (Azhar Sheikhs Book 2)The Sheikh's Pregnant Fling by Leslie North
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the second book in a series but I don’t think I suffered for not reading the first in the series before this one. It definitely felt like a stand-alone novel. I loved the idea of a matchmaker who falls in love with someone she was supposed to match. Cassandra is a strong and interesting heroine and I think she and Nasir were a good match. I was a little annoyed that the cover art didn’t match the character descriptions (the character of Cassandra is a blond and the woman on the cover is a brunette). It’s the little things sometimes. I did like the story – the characters were solid – the writing was good. I did find it to be a fairly short read – it’s not even 200 pages. So, in some ways, I almost wish it had been longer! It felt in some ways like a novella instead of a novel. But, overall, this was a good romance. I think I’ll pick up the next book in the series and see if I am interested in continuing on!

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

Review: Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave

Hello, SunshineHello, Sunshine by Laura Dave
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was so excited to hear about this novel. I was a big fan of the author’s novel Eight Hundred Grapes. I was curious to see what she would explore next. And, frankly, I think Laura Dave really delivered a solid novel in this book. The novel focuses on secrets and how they can unwind in our lives despite our intentions. I loved the fact that quite a bit of the book centers around the culinary industry which I found to be an interesting backdrop for the overall story. As the main character, Sunshine’s life falls apart due to her secrets becoming public, I found it fascinating to follow her through that experience – the opportunities, the fears, the shame, etc. It was a really good look at the idea of authenticity in a world so dominated by social media. It’s not a particularly deep read – it’s fairly light and easy. It flowed well and successfully explores some fairly deep topics while remaining light in tone. I loved the exploration of authenticity and social media – it really gave me a great deal to think about (for myself and my social media obsessed children). I think this would be a very good book to take on a vacation or a long plane ride. I also think it would make a wonderful book club book as there is quite a bit to talk about in this novel. And the cover art is FANTASTIC! I just love the cover which I think also does a good job of setting the tone for the novel itself. I definitely recommend this one!

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

Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager

Final GirlsFinal Girls by Riley Sager
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a fun and fast paced novel this one is! It’s an incredibly readable thriller with a great plot as well as great characters. Such a great addition to the thriller genre! Lots of twists and turns in this one. The premise is really interesting as it centers around the ‘final girls’ who each survived different nightmare events. As their stories all intertwine, you learn more about what they experienced and how they are actually coping in life after the events that in so many ways have defined them. The only reason it’s not a 5 star is that I figured out the twist fairly early in the book so the ending wasn’t quite as climactic as it would have been if I had not. But, I still enjoyed the ride … it’s a really strong thriller and an intense novel that is very well written. The novel had the feel of a horror movie in many ways and I think that aspect made the reading experience all the more enjoyable. I definitely recommend this one for fans of the thriller genre. It’s a really strong read that I think thriller fans will enjoy!

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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Review: Catching the Cowgirl by Jennie Marts

Catching the Cowgirl (Cotton Creek, #3)Catching the Cowgirl by Jennie Marts
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me a little while to get into this novel. It felt a little too cheesy at first and it took me awhile to connect with the characters. They felt a little cardboard until I was probably 20% into the book. And then the cheesiness mellowed out and the characters began to come together for me. All in all, I think this was a sweet romance with an interesting story. I liked how the author put together the video game aspect of the story next to the cowboy/ranch aspect. I love the opposites attract trope so this was a nice take on that. And I loved that the heroine is a single mother which is a nice change! All in all, this was a sweet romance with a lot of character and fun!

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher for an honest review.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Review: Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) BodyHunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

WOW! I think this cements my suspicion that Roxane Gay is my favorite writer. I love her way with words. This one definitely resonated with me given my own struggles with my weight over time. I really appreciate the depth with which she examines her life and explores the dark as well as the light. Her ability to put things that I’ve thought into words just astounds me. She’s someone that I really respect for her bravery, candor, and vulnerability. It can’t be easy to write publicly about such personal things. But, I am so glad that she does. We need more people in the world like Roxane Gay. Smart people who can help us explore the things that make us uncomfortable. This one broke my heart, put my feelings into words, gave me a new perspective and helped me to think through some of my own food related issues in a new way. I applaud her for being so brave and honest. I think books like this have such potential to change the world and to help people understand different perspectives. This is one of those books that everyone should read. It’s fantastic and difficult and dark and hopeful all at the same time! One of my favorites of the year!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Review: Everything We Left Behind by Kerry Lonsdale

Everything We Left Behind (Everything We Keep, #2)Everything We Left Behind by Kerry Lonsdale
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wish I’d enjoyed this one more. It was good but not great. It felt considerably slower paced than the first book did. I definitely recommend reading Everything We Keep BEFORE this one as this one will spoil that one for you. This is really the same story as the first book but from a very different perspective. I found it interesting to experience that switch as a reader. I think the fact that it is a very similar story given that its in the same world with the same characters made it a little more sluggish for me. I suspect that is because Aimee wasn’t in this one as much. I really enjoyed her in the first one and didn’t connect with the character at the focus of this book. I’m glad I read it so I could see how everything came together but this one was not quite as good as the first for me!

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

Review: Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale

Everything We Keep (Everything We Keep, #1)Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel has a really unique story line and was pretty fast paced. I liked the mix of romance and mystery. I’m actually quite surprised to find out that this is a debut novel. The characters in this novel is really where it excels. I really came to care about the people in the book. I think it does a really good job of demonstrating how grief can impact someone. There was a good mystery at the center of the story that really pulled me along and kept me interested. This novel isn’t what I’d call a fluffy beach read but it’s got that feel about it while also being quite a good thriller/mystery. All in all, this is an interesting read. I definitely recommend it if you’re a fan of thrillers and/or mysteries – it ultimately felt like a good mix of women’s fiction, thriller/mystery and romance!

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

Review: Chemistry by Weike Wang

ChemistryChemistry by Weike Wang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is such an unusual book – truly unlike any I’ve read before. The voice as well as the exploration of finding your place in the world were the standouts for me with this one. The novel’s voice, in particular, was outstanding. It took me some time to get into a rhythm with it but once I did, it really grabbed me. The themes and how the author weaved them with science/chemistry was so well done! The narrator really grew on me with her way of moving through the world and her experiences. I came to really understand her pain and her feelings of loneliness. I thought this was a fantastic read and I definitely recommend it especially if you’re interested in reading books where the voice of the novel is a bit off kilter. Very good!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Review: Forever Yours by Addison Fox

Forever YoursForever Yours by Addison Fox
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the 3rd in a series but I haven’t read the first two. I don’t feel like I lost anything by not reading the earlier books but I do wonder what I might have missed – it’s that little part of me that worries I’m missing some context for not reading the earlier books. I love the whole one party pining for the other party trope in a romance and this book is all about that trope! I did like the fact that the heroine of the novel is a woman of color (this is something that is seriously lacking in romance) and it wasn’t a ‘thing’ that made the book work. She just happens to be black, it’s not like it’s a huge plot point or anything. Again, I like this. I also like that she’s a professional woman who has had a great deal of success and doesn’t necessarily ‘need’ a man to be fulfilled. Yes, she loves the hero, yes she’s always loved him but her life does not in any way revolved around him. All in all, I did enjoy this one although I found that it was wrapped up pretty quickly. I suddenly got to the end and was like wow, we got here really quickly. It just seemed to end more suddenly than I expected based on where the story seemed to be going. Not a flaw necessarily but just an observation.

Review: The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a MemoirThe Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a powerful book! Very raw and emotional book that takes on some very difficult subjects such as pedophilia, sexual abuse, criminality, death row, and family dynamics. I love how the authors’ personal story was woven into the case of a death row inmate so effectively. Although I did find myself more drawn to the story of the inmate (Ricky), his family and his crime, I do think the fact that there were secrets in the authors life which played so well beside Ricky’s was a really powerful mix of narrative non-fiction. It reads almost like fiction. The people and circumstances just jump off of the page. It’s definitely FULL of triggers for those readers who find sexual abuse difficult to read about. It’s a raw, painful and devastating look at families blended with a closer look at the underbelly of pedophilia, murder and sexual abuse. Such a powerful and brutal read. I definitely recommend this one to those who think they can handle the material – it really made me think about criminality and family secrets in a new way. This is a mix of true crime and memoir the likes of which I’ve never read before. Definitely one that I won’t forget for some time!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Review: Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny

Standard DeviationStandard Deviation by Katherine Heiny
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have been hearing amazing things about this novel and I have to say that hype was definitely right about this one! Such an engaging and interesting story! Graham, Audra and Matthew are such interesting characters and following their daily lives in this novel is just wonderful! It's a difficult novel to describe compellingly which is one of the things that makes it just that much more special! My advice - just read it! It's so wonderful! Katherine Heiny is such an astute and insightful writer! She excels at making the characters and their daily lives incredibly interesting and compelling! I didn't want to stop reading it. Ultimately, it's a intimate examination of a family in New York - the good, the bad and the ugly. And it's such a great read! I highly recommend this one!

Review: The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo

The Fall of Lisa BellowThe Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had such high hopes for this novel after hearing several readers that I trust say that they enjoyed it. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work for me. I understand why some people did enjoy it but I didn't connect with it. It's definitely readable. I was never bored, it's a good story. However, I was hoping for more given the hype. It felt as if the story never really went anywhere. It just explored the aftermath of the main event but never really provided any closure for me. I'm sure that was the author's intention and it seemed to work for many. It just didn't work for me in this case. I kept waiting for something to happen that I would care about and it just never happened. In fact, the one aspect of the story that I did want to know more about ... never came to a conclusion. Ugh. All in all, it just didn't work for me. But, know that MANY readers have really loved this one so you should give it a shot if it sounds interesting to you.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Review: Opening Belle by Maureen Sherry

Opening BelleOpening Belle by Maureen Sherry
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really wanted to love this one and it sounded like a good bet given the focus on the financial industry and the struggles of a working mom ... and yet, it just didn't work for me. I am struggling with the rating because I didn't hate it or love it. It's really something between it was ok and I liked it. So, I'm going with 2 stars. But, overall, this one wasn't one that will leave an impression. I really never connected with the writing for some reason. I thought the description of the financial industry and it's lack of diversity was excellent and it really did a great job of giving the reader insight into that world. I never really connected with the characters and some of them even felt a bit like cardboard cut outs to me. I think that may have been part of the reason that I struggled with this novel. I'm having a hard time putting my finger on what I didn't like beyond the writing and characters just never came together for me. I don't think this is a bad book but I do think it didn't work for me. There are others who have quite liked it so you may want to give it a shot if the description sounds good to you!