Thursday, September 25, 2014

Review: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told YouEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a wonderful little novel about an interracial family (Chinese American) grieving for the loss of a teenage daughter. I don't want to tell you much about the plot of the book because I think it was all the more enjoyable by reading it with very little context or information. What I will tell you is that it's a wonderful story that explores racism, community, and emotional baggage.

The characters are wonderful and feel very real and raw for most of the novel. There is a realism about this story that I found made the themes and characters come alive in a way that could have been less subtle without Celeste Ng's deft hand. There are some really beautiful passages in this novel ... Ng is obviously a wonderful writer and I enjoyed the reading of her prose even if it was at time difficult to read due to how sad and desolate the story was at times.

The unraveling of the story and each character's perspective is one of the best things about this novel. There is a pacing and flow that keeps things moving, letting the various pieces of the puzzle are uncovered as Ng wants them to be. So well done! I highly recommend this novel as it's a really interesting take on racism, community and family dynamics.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Review: The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

The Winter Sea (Slains, #1)The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a wonderful surprise this book was for me! I heard somewhere that this would be good to read if you enjoyed Outlander so i thought I'd give it a shot. Although it's no Outlander, it is a really nice historical fiction novel about the same time frame in Scotland. I was really pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this one.

Really great characters, an engaging cast of characters, great pacing and a really solid story! This is on the lighter end of historical fiction - there isn't a lot of density to the read, very engaging and easy to read.

I definitely recommend this to those who enjoy historical fiction, especially in 16th century Scotland. It's a great little book that I really enjoyed. I'm interested in reading more of Susanna Kearsley's books since this one was such a good one!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Review: The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

The Book of Strange New ThingsThe Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've waited a bit to write this review to see how this novel set with me after thinking about it some more. I am still struggling with rating this one but I'm going with a 4 although 4.5 is probably closer to how I feel about this one. I have heard a few people say that if you liked The Sparrow, you might enjoy this one. Although I think they are ultimately very different books, I do understand the inclination to pair the two of them. And agree that they are both books that should be read by all ... although I'd say the Sparrow is a bit better overall.

There are a lot of BIG themes (religion, faith, humanity, etc) being explored here but I think Michel Faber did an amazing job exploring those themes while remaining even and non-preachy. Given my own complicated relationship with religion, I found Faber's exploration of religion to be even handed and fair. The book gave me a great deal to think about and stuck with me for a few days.

Michel Faber is obviously a deft story teller who is able to take a reader on a journey into this amazing new world that he's created that feels completely and utterly real. He's a fantastic writer and I really enjoyed all aspects of the story he told with this novel. I found this book to be extremely readable and loved every moment that I spent reading this one.

The novel will be published on October 28th and I highly recommend you give it a read. It's a wonderful story that is also intelligent and well written! I highly recommend this one!

NOTE: This novel was sent to me by the publisher for an honest review.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Review: Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

Shotgun LovesongsShotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that is right up my alley - a group of people who grew up together and are facing the world as adults! A Big Chill sort of vibe is what I love in this sort of book! And this one is a fantastic version of the coming together as adults books ... I really enjoyed every moment of the book. What made this book stand out, for me, was it's focus on male friendship. Many books focus on female friendship or a group of male and female friends but those focusing on men tend to be few and far between. So, the exploration of male friendship was one of the great things about this novel.

The novel is narrated by alternating chapters from the perspective of five different characters - the four male friends as well as one of the friend's wife. Each of these perspectives is key to telling the story and allowing the reader to peak into the lives of these characters and their relationships to one another.

I loved learning about their community (which is frankly another character in the book) and how their stories and friendships have played out over the years. It's a fascinating read and alternates between hopeful and heartbreaking. There is something rather simple about this novel which makes it all the more affecting and real.

The characters felt very real and honest to me. They all demonstrated the good, bad and ugly that is the human condition and it all felt very real to me. I began to care so much for each of the characters in this novel and their journeys were gut-wrenching at times!

It was a wonderful novel that I definitely recommend to anyone who likes a good story with fantastic characters! I can't wait to see what Nickolas Butler has for us in the future!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Review: Kitchen Confidential by Kelsey Nixon

Kitchen Confidence: Essential Recipes and Tips That Will Help You Cook AnythingKitchen Confidence: Essential Recipes and Tips That Will Help You Cook Anything by Kelsey Nixon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was pleasantly surprised by this cookbook. I've watched Kelsey Nixon's cooking show a time or two but really don't know her well. I wasn't sure that her cookbook would resonate with me and the tastes of my family. I am very happy to report that I was concerned for no reason - the book really resonated with me and I enjoyed it quite a bit!

I really liked how she balances the needs of an experienced cook with those of an inexperienced cook. There is a great section about essential equipment for a home cook that I think is a fantastic resource - and I especially like how she adds in the equipment she feels is 'nice to have' and 'fun, if you have the room.' Very useful for those with or without home cooking experience!

The contents of the cookbook include recipes across the spectrum including breakfast, starters, salads, sandwiches & soups, main course, sides, and desserts. Very comprehensive with so many different options for everyone! Some of the recipes that I'm most interested in making for our family include Prosciutto, Mushroom and Gruyere Strata, Buttermilk Biscuits, Cinnamon Buns, Antipasti Bruschetta, Green Goddess Dip, Charred Corn Salad, Shrimp Rolls, Pan-Seared Scallops, Chicken Piccata, Quinoa Pilaf, Sausage, Apple and Pear Dressing, and Lemon Bars. As you can see, LOTS of the recipes in this book have grabbed me!

This is a solid cookbook that I definitely recommend ... especially if you are a Kelsey Nixon fan!

NOTE: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Review: The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

The Silent SisterThe Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think Diane Chamberlain is one of those authors who steadily offer solid books that are extremely readable, interesting and are a good break from heavy literary fiction. I'm always eager to read her newest offering!

This novel, like most of the others I've read by her, is a really great read! Great characters, interesting plot, fascinating twists and turns! Very readable - they flow nicely with excellent plotting! I think I've mentioned this in reviews of her other novels but Chamberlain excels at capturing the relationships and emotions of her characters in a way that makes you feel a part of the very world she's created. It's the heart of what makes a Diane Chamberlain book so compelling!

There were some flaws in this one which is why I only gave it 4 stars but they are easily ignored or overlooked flaws. They nagged at me a bit but I was ultimately able to let them go and just enjoy the ride!

All in all, I really enjoyed this novel and definitely recommend it, particularly if you're a Diane Chamberlain fan! This story was really quite good and is worth the read!

NOTE: I received an e-galley of this novel from the publisher for my honest review.This novel comes out for publication on October 7th.