Sunday, June 4, 2017

Review: The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

The Woman in Cabin 10The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I just don’t get the hype about this one. I wanted to enjoy it, I really did. I think part of the problem is all the comparisons to Gone Girl and Girl on the Train which I think are not great comparisons. I found the narrative to be clunky and I had a hard time caring much what happened. I almost put it down 10 times while reading and ultimately skimmed much of the last 1/3 of the book, just to find out what happened. And then, I felt kind of meh about the ending. This one just didn’t work for me. I think there are MUCH better books in this genre to seek out!

Review: So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

So You've Been Publicly ShamedSo You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was really intrigued by the idea of this book as I think the public shaming we keep seeing via social media is really frightening in many different ways. I’d heard a podcast with the author and felt intrigued enough to pick up the book to do a deeper dive. And, ultimately, I liked this exploration of shaming. The case studies were interesting. I liked getting more background on the history of public shaming and how it ties into what we see today. I think this is something we’ll continue to see in social media but this book was a solid look at something that can be devastating on a personal and community level.

Review: Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

Ginny MoonGinny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What an unforgettable book! Ginny Moon has made such an impression on me ... I don't think I'll ever forget her. This story is told from the perspective of an autistic fourteen year old girl. She is unlike any character I've ever read about. She has a lot of physical and emotional scars but she's really trying her best to be good and do the right thing. Her view of the world and how she understands the world around her is really where this book excels. Going deep into the mind of a character who doesn't think like most people is fascinating. And seeing how the world around her - parents, therapist, friends, teachers, etc - try to understand and react to her is amazing.

This is a very touching novel that I don't think that I'll ever forget. This is a special book that I highly recommend for any and all! Such a good book!

Review: A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

A Piece of the WorldA Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I read a description of this book, I wasn't wow'd. It sounded like it might border on boring. However, this one is fantastic! So much more than it sounds like in the description. This wonderfully well written novel is so beautiful as it tells the story of a woman on a farm. The story is built around a painting of a girl in a field, looking towards a farmhouse. This novel takes the woman from the painting and builds a beautiful and heartbreaking story. You ultimately learn the life story of this woman. Her struggles, her passions, her suffering, her friendships, the decisions (hers and others) that affect her life. It's such a beautiful and mesmerizing novel. I highly recommend that you pick it up as soon as possible.

Review: The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter

The Weight of LiesThe Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm so glad that I picked this one up (that COVER just grabbed me) because it was so fantastic! It is such an engrossing read that I read it in a day. I could not put this book down. If I had to say it was like another book, I'd say there are some similarities to Night Film. It had a similar vibe - creepy, seeking to understand a creative dynamo, a mystery to be solved, etc.

What really stood out with this one was how beautifully written it was as well as how well developed the characters were. The sense of place in this book was absolutely stunning to the point that the island location in the book absolutely feel like a real place ... almost like another character in the book. The characters that grab you and don't let go are one of the things that made this book so unputdownable. They were complex and rich, making them really come alive for me. Nothing felt in any way artificial or unreal.

The plotting of this novel was so well done. It all came together so beautifully. It felt effortless to me yet when I think about the pieces and parts, I realize how complicated the plotting really was for the author. All in all, this is an excellent psychological thriller. One of the best I've read in quite awhile. Maybe since Night Film. I highly recommend this, particularly if you like dark family stories that you cannot put down!

Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Review: The Wedding Date Bargain by Mira Lyn Kelly

The Wedding Date BargainThe Wedding Date Bargain by Mira Lyn Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn't read the first in this series but I don't think I missed anything. This is definitely fine as a stand alone story! And I really liked this one. I wasn't sure that the virginity stuff was going to work for me but it didn't bother me. This one was fun and interesting. The pacing was fantastic. I really liked Sarah and Max as a couple. I didn't want to put this story down. I found it to be engrossing and found the romance itself worked well for me. I really liked the group of friends in this series ... their camaraderie and playfulness was really engaging. This is a series that I'll continue to follow!

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

Review: Sleepless in Manhattan by Sarah Morgan

Sleepless in Manhattan (From Manhattan with Love, #1)Sleepless in Manhattan by Sarah Morgan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first Sarah Morgan and I’ll definitely be going back for more! Well written and well executed! It was a fun and interesting read. It felt like more than the typical romance novel - perhaps because the characters were so well done – very complex and quirky. The scenes in the book are vivid and come alive on the page. I really enjoyed this one! I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys a good story. This is one of those books that would be a great palette cleanser between heavier books.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Review: This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

\This is the Story of a Happy MarriageThis is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh Ann Patchett! I just adore her voice and this book of essays was wonderful! She covers so much in this book – about writing, her family, her friends, her animals, her love of books and her marriage. I especially enjoyed the aspects where she wrote about opening her bookstore given my own ambition is to open my own independent bookstore one day in the near future. All in all, I really enjoyed dipping in and out of these essays over the last few months. If you’re an Ann Patchett fan, don’t miss this collection!

Review: Besties by Leah Reena Goren

BestiesBesties by Leah Reena Goren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a wonderful little book that celebrates friendship! It's a perfect gift book for your best friend. It's fun and cute. The illustrations are fantastic and really make the book shine all the more! It's a very light look at friendship and all the special little details that constitute a great friendship! Reading it made me miss my own bestie who is 13 hours away! My daughter who is 12 loved it as well. I think this is a gift book that a girl or woman of almost any age over 10 will enjoy and appreciate. Really cute book that you should check out if you have a gift giving opportunity coming up for a close friend!

Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Review: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond FearBig Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I spent a few months dipping in and out of this one as I felt inspired to do so. I was mostly interested in it as someone who is starting a small business and looking for both inspiration and some help in terms of getting beyond some of the fears I’m having about taking the leap! And this book was a really good for that purpose. I felt like the ultimate message – do what you love, big magic will follow, don’t let your fears scare you from what you should and want to do – really resonated with me and where I am in my life. As a huge reader, I loved the stories that Elizabeth Gilbert told about her own books and writing life. I found the book to be light and a bit cheeky while also being motivational and interesting. I’m not sure I buy everything she talks about in the book but I do think it was a good and useful read. What I walked away with was that I need to continue to push through my fears and my uncertainties about what I want instead of focusing on the potential negative outcomes. That, alone, was worth the read! I definitely recommend this if you want to embrace your creativity and get beyond fear! It’s definitely self-help but it’s also so much more!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Review: Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein

Our Short HistoryOur Short History by Lauren Grodstein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

And this book KILLED me … in the best of ways! What a wonderful and devastating book! This is a novel about motherhood like none other I’ve read. The basic premise is that there is a woman who has a six year old son and she’s recently found out she is going to die. The father was not part of their lives but her son wants to meet him. As she’s facing putting all of her affairs in order and making sure her son is well taken care of in light of her impending death, she’s also trying to manage her own feelings about her illness and how to manage allowing her son’s father become a part of her son’s life. It sounds morose and sad … and it is and yet it isn’t. It’s a wonderfully balanced story that is funny and sad and poignant and heart breaking.

The mother in the story is a political consultant so I really loved hearing about her work and getting a lens into a political campaign and its ups and downs throughout the novel. Between that and learning about how she’s balanced being a working single mother, it’s amazing how well she has done on her own. Having ovarian cancer has made the balance of her home and work lives start to fall apart a bit.

This story is about dying and cancer and yet it’s really about so much more – being a parent, trying to say goodbye, how wonderful and horrible motherhood can be, and how to help your child be OK despite the sorrow that is coming their way. The story is told via a letter from the mother to her son which I think was a really effective way to frame the story.

This is one of those stories that made me laugh and cry. By the end, I was sobbing … for her, for her son, for her friends and family and for this little boy’s father. The circumstances weren’t’ easy for anyone in the book but I definitely understood why they did some of the things they did (even if I didn’t necessarily agree with them). I don’t think it was the most groundbreaking or unpredictable story I’ve read BUT it was well written and beautifully expressed. It made me think and feel and think some more. It reminded me to be appreciative of every moment I have with my own kids and to do my best to help them become who they are. It reminded me to not be so stubborn about taking help when it is offered. It reminded me that you can find the humorous in the sadness.

I felt like the characters were well drawn in this one – they were flawed and often made decisions that were difficult to watch as a reader. I enjoyed the fact that the characters were ‘allowed’ to feel pain and anger and sorrow. The good and the bad of life … without qualms or qualifiers. I couldn’t stop reading this one. It grabbed me and didn’t let go until the last word. I highly recommend it … especially if you’re a mother or want to better understand being a mother (the good, the bad and the ugly). This is a beautiful and heartbreaking book that just wow’d me!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Review: American War by Omar El Akkad

American WarAmerican War by Omar El Akkad
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a book! This is a very timely and well written exploration of a future American Civil war between the South and the North. It felt very timely given the divisiveness we’re experiencing in America today. The author tells the story of this war through the exploration of how the war impacts a family, while also exploring the impact of the war on the nation as a whole. The book vividly takes the reader to places that are difficult and ugly. The horrifying lengths at which people will go to protect what they believe or enact revenge for what has been done to them. I love how the author showed the reader how one of the characters, Sarat, developed into who and what she became during the war. Why she made the choices she made and how each decision she made affected her and those around her. It is this exploration that really made this book so impactful. I love that the author didn’t make the war in his book about race but rather about the environment and technology. I think making it about race would have been too easy. This made it very real to me … given the current problem of climate change and how many people have convinced themselves that climate change isn’t real (despite the breadth of scientific evidence that it is all too real).

This is a harrowing novel that I think is a sobering look at what our future could be if we don’t begin to think about America and its issues in new ways. The growth of Sarat throughout the book gives the reader an insider’s look at how war can change a person and how they see the world. I highly recommend this one … this is not for everyone but if you think you can handle the war/violence, I can’t recommend it enough. I think it’s worth taking the time to read this one!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Review: It's Always the Husband by Michele Campbell

It's Always the HusbandIt's Always the Husband by Michele Campbell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am struggling a bit with rating this one. It may be closer to a 3 ½ than a 3. But, it definitely wasn’t quite a 4 for me. I think part of it is that I expected one thing based on the description and title but found something rather different upon reading it. This is the story of 3 college friends and their friendship over 20 years. It’s about social status, secrets, betrayal, corruption, and the ways we hurt the people we care about. There is suspense as well as a murder mystery at the heart of the novel but it felt, in many ways, like more of a study of friendship to me than a suspense novel. And it did have an effective ending – I thought I had it all figured out but ended up being wrong which was a nice surprise for me.

I did find it difficult to like most of the characters in this book but that didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story itself. I saw it more as a character study of three very different but very flawed people and how they have affected each other over time. Sure, they ended up being far from likeable but I didn’t mind that. Although I found most of their behavior towards each other to be despicable, I still enjoyed the ride. More than anything, I was taken by the narrative and what it said about friendship and how it can change into something very ugly. The effect these people had on each other made me a little sick to my stomach. How being close to someone can twist and change over time into something disturbing was an interesting thing to ponder coming out of this book. All in all, I’m glad that I read it but it’s not going to end up on my favorites list. But, if the exploration of friendship sounds interesting to you, I think you may like where this one takes you.

NOTE: Received an advanced reader's copy form the publisher for an honest review.

Review: Cheater's Regret by Rachel Van Dyken

Cheater's Regret (Curious Liaisons, #2)Cheater's Regret by Rachel Van Dyken
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second in a series but I have not read the first. I don’t think I missed anything by not reading the first in the series before this one. I’m not typically a fan of a romance involving a cheater. I don’t have a high tolerance for cheating. But, this was a fresh take on the cheater, in my opinion, and I found myself enjoying it much more than expected. I really liked the characters in this one – Austin and Thatch are great characters with great chemistry. The whole love/hate dynamic between the two of them was fantastic. The cheating wasn’t the focus of the book and it was explained in a way that made sense given the context of the story. I enjoyed the story line overall. There were a few things that I found a bit far-fetched but I was able to overlook it because I liked the characters so much. Overall, this is a really great romance that I recommend, especially if you’re a fan of the light-hearted, fast paced read that has a nice balance of funny and sexy. I think I’ll go back and read the first one in the series as well as seek out some of her other books given how much I enjoyed this one!

NOTE: ARC received from the publisher for an honest review.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Review: The Leavers by Lisa Ko

The LeaversThe Leavers by Lisa Ko
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. Yet another book that I wish every American could read. Given our current political environment, this should be required reading for the citizens of the WORLD.

Here is an overview of the book, from Goodreads:

One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her.

With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind.

This book is an exploration of what happens to Deming's mother when she disappeared as well as the impact of that disappearance and what results from it on the identity of Deming. It's such a moving story of identity, immigration and borders. I was so taken with this story of a mother and her child. The writing is beautiful ... there were passages that I read over and over because they totally spoke to me and deserved a more focused read. It's not a fast book. It slowly makes its way through time, showing you the impacts over and over and over. SO beautiful. So impactful. So moving.

Where the book really excels is it's examination of parenthood as well as it's hard look at the hardships faced by immigrants trying to assimilate to a new country. I loved how Lisa Ko shows you, in a multitude of ways, how identity is a struggle. It's not always easy to know your place, regardless of what happens to you. I found the sections about Deming and his adopted family to be especially interesting. Although well meaning, they completely obliterate everything about Deming's past and try to make him over as an "American."

All in all, I just loved this book. I highly recommend it to any and all! It's an important book that will make you think about identity and immigration in new and interesting ways.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a ARC of this book for an honest review!