Friday, December 11, 2015

Review: The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson

The Star Side of Bird HillThe Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First let me talk about the cover on this novel - it's so amazing! Just jumps off hte shelf at you! And it's perfect for this novel! It just rocks! This was a fascinating take on the coming of age story and it centers on two girls who face a lot of challenges as they maneuver through family, friends and community.

The representation of teens in this novel was really fantastic - it offered a balanced view of them which I found refreshing. Teens can be so challenging and putting that myriad of emotions onto paper can be difficult, I'm sure. Naomi Jackson excelled at that in this novel.

The characters were so fleshed out and realistic - flawed in all their beauty. I loved the character of Hyacinth (the girls' grandmother) who really had that charm and strength that a good grandmother should have. Her devotion to her girls was one of the most beautiful relationships in the novel.

I loved how this novel helped to teach me a bit about Barbados and the challenges someone might have after living in America and coming to live in Barbados. The novel explored family, friendship, and depression so well. Although not a fast paced novel, this was a nice, gentle exploration of interesting people and their interesting lives.

I highly recommend this novel - it's so good! I can't wait to read more of this novelists work in the future!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Review: Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia

Bellweather RhapsodyBellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a quirky little book! I really was surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. Although the characters were more one dimensional than I usually like, the story itself (and it's quirkiness) made up for that for me. It did feel a bit like the author pulled in some familiar things to create her world and characters - characters and event like Glee, a huge hotel with history like in the Shining (but without the horror) and a murder mystery right out of Agatha Christie!

I found the playfulness of the novel and the characters to be its greatest asset. I was curious about how things would play out but also interested in the story along the way. The humor and quirkinmess really made it memorable to me.

I don't think this is for everyone but I do think it was charming and interesting. Definitely worth your checking out to see if it's something you might like!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Review: The Things That Keep Us Here by Carla Buckley

The Things That Keep Us HereThe Things That Keep Us Here by Carla Buckley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel has been on my Nook for what seems like ages but the cover image had me convinced it was one novel ... and it was something completely different. This isn't in any way a fluffy, family drama sort of book as the cover indicated to me. This is a family drama that's built around a pandemic taking over the world. And it's really quite good. Not perfect but infinitely readable and interesting.

I found myself a bit frightened given the fact that the events in this book are very realistic ... and could easily happen at any time. That gave the book a sense of urgency that I really enjoyed!

I wish there had been a bit more on the pandemic, to fill in some of the openings but I suspect that the author wanted to put the reader in the same place as her characters ... where things are happening but the infrastructure that we rely on for information is no longer in place.

All in all, I enjoyed this novel and recommend it. It's a unique take on the 'end of the world' tale.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Review: Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy

Where All Light Tends to GoWhere All Light Tends to Go by David Joy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this dark and atmospheric novel. Although not a new concept (the story itself has been told elsewhere), I did find this a very good novel. Southern fiction focusing around a family impacted by meth and how it's changed them. In many ways, this is a simple coming of age story but it is even better as a cautionary tale. The impact of poverty and crime played out with this cast of characters was fascinating. Like I said, nothing revolutionary - but a solid story with compelling stories. This novel is dark and gritty - there is little to be uplifted by. However, there is a great deal of soul to this story and I found it to be a good read. I recommend it if the dark and gritty appeals to you.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Review: Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders: A Novel by Julianna Baggott

Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders: A NovelHarriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders: A Novel by Julianna Baggott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this novel - such a great story about three generations of women. I loved how the story unfolded and how the author used Harriet Wolf's books to tell that story in a really unique way.

There is so much texture in this novel - both in the characters and the world that Baggott has created for those characters. Everyone is flawed and interesting and come across quite real. It was a fun and interesting adventure!

I definitely recommend this one ... it was such a pleasure to read!There is a mystical sort of feel to this novel - it's lyrical and even magical. I found it unlike anything I've ever read. This would be a great book for a book club to read and discuss!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Review: Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner

Who Do You LoveWho Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am surprised by how much I enjoyed this novel! It really spoke to me but perhaps that is because it has some parallels to my own relationship with my husband who I consider to be my soul mate. We have been in and out of each others lives since I was 14 but I always knew he was the one.

Anyway, back to the novel ... it's a really well paced story, that allows you to get both character's perspective of what's been happening. I think this is a heartfelt and beautiful story about the paths life takes and how we never know where we'll end up! I think the love story was very realistic and honest. It felt real.

I really enjoyed this new one from Jennifer Weiner! I did miss her trademark funny dialogue which I didn't see much here but overall, yet another good book from her!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Saint AnythingSaint Anything by Sarah Dessen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am new to Sarah Dessen but I really enjoyed this novel. I felt it was very realistic about the lives of teenagers. The dialogue and characters felt realistic and true. I found this book to be a thoughtful exploration of family, self-discovery and friendship.

I feel like this quote really summed up some of my favorite parts of this book -
"I was used to being invisible. People rarely saw me, and if they did, they never looked close. I wasn't shiny and charming like my brother, stunning and graceful like my mother, or smart and dynamic like my friends. That's the thing though. You always think you want to be noticed. Until you are."
I often felt invisible as a teenager and often struggled with the fact that I was so unnoticed and how that was good and bad at times. I felt this book really honored the feelings that a lot of teens have ... and it did a great job of showing how teens often rely on their friends when their family isn't meeting their needs.

I really liked this one and felt it was more mature than some YA that I've read. I enjoyed the reading experience. I recommend to YA fans!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Review: After You by Jojo Moyes

After You (Me Before You, #2)After You by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was eager to read this follow up to Me Before You and it delivered about how I expected it to ... it was good but not nearly as good as Me Before You. I'm glad that I read it because I enjoyed spending time with Louisa again and seeing where things go for her.

I love the characters and this book continued to make them interesting and charming. I loved getting to see how things are for all of them and watch them grow. I also enjoyed the new characters that were introduced in this novel and found them to be good additions to the original cast of characters.

The same warmth and charm that permeated Me Before You is here in this one. And if you enjoyed the first one, definitely take the time to pick this one up. You'll be glad you got to see where Louisa goes and where she ends up. It's definitely worth the read. I think it explored loss and healing in a really effective way.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Review: This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison

This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is such an interesting book ... unlike most books that I've read. It was unique in many ways - the narrator, the way the story was told, how everything unfolds, etc. Harriet is a character that I don't think that I will be soon to forget! She is so fascinating and interesting. I loved how the book unfolded from the perspective of different times in her life. It gave the story and character development such depth.

I don't want to tell you much about this one because I think it was nice to come to it with no expectations or idea of what I might be reading about. I think this is a novel that anyone would enjoy as it's ultimately about universal theme of coming to terms with your life. I definitely recommend this one to everyone ... you will love spending time with Harriet Chance!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Review: Jackaby by William Ritter

Jackaby (Jackaby, #1)Jackaby by William Ritter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How did I miss this book when it was released?? When the second in the series came out, I learned of this one and grabbed it up. And I'm so glad I did. I really loved this book!

This novel's main character is Jackaby who is like Sherlock Holmes but with supernatural abilities. And he is fantastic! Loved getting to know him and read about his work. His relationship with Abigail (a woman who comes to work for him as an assistant) is so interesting. I loved the mix of mystery, supernatural and the fact that there is NO ROMANCE. I was worried at first that it would become a romance but thank goodness it's didn't go that direction.

I can't wait to read the next in the series and get to spend more time with Jackaby and Abigail. Someone called this one a mix of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Who and I'd say that's a good description. I definitely recommend this one! I really enjoyed the entire experience of reading it!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Review: What Lies Between by Charlena Miller

What Lies BetweenWhat Lies Between by Charlena Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am almost always attracted to novels that take place in Scotland. I believe I heard about this particular novel from a list that someone put together for fans of Outlander. Although this is no Outlander, I did enjoy this book quite a bit. It is a contemporary fiction novel with some suspense elements.

I found this novel to be well written and the story itself interesting. I liked the characters and found their development was well done. I loved the descriptions of Scotland which felt true to my own experience of visiting. The mystery of the novel was well done and the suspense pacing was handled well. There was romance but it wasn't even remotely all about romance. I'd say it was a really interesting suspense novel with a bit of romance.

I definitely recommend this one if you enjoy contemporary novels or you enjoy novels set in Scotland.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, EverythingEverything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm quite surprised by how much I enjoyed this novel. I think this novel tells a really sweet story that made my heart feel good. If you liked The Fault in Our Stars, you might want to check this one out. It's a teen love story that centers around an illness. The voice of the teens in this book felt very accurate and real to me. Some of the sentiment expressed about their feelings for one another felt real and true to how I felt at the same age.

I think this is a novel that adults will enjoy as much as young adults. It's not overly sweet or unrealistic as some YA can feel. I think it's just a nice story about interesting characters. It was a fairly easy read and didn't take me long to finish. I was happy to see that the main character was diverse (half black/half Japanese) which I think is something that much YA lacks. I also enjoyed the formatting of parts of the story (notes, IMs, e-mails, etc). I thought it added a whimsy to the story that was interesting.

There is a twist of sorts that I didn't see coming (in part because it felt a bit like a cop out to me). It didn't ruin the book for me but it did make me pause for a moment (and give it 4 rather than 5 stars).

All in all, I definitely recommend this one! It's a nice little story that I think many will enjoy!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Review: The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne

The Ice TwinsThe Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a creepy book! As a mother of twins (although not identical twins), I found this entire story fascinating. There was such a great senses of place which reinforced the creepy nature of the novel. The character development was well done as was the pacing of the story. It's interesting how Tremayne tied the various creepy aspects into one cohesive narrative. I thought it was well done. There is definitely a strong atmospheric element to the novel which made it interesting throughout.

I did have some issues with the book but they were mostly small things that didn't affect my overall enjoyment of the novel. I found it hard to believe that a parent wouldn't know which twin was which as occurred in this novel. The characters (although well developed) were not easy to like ... they were not nice people, there were few redeeming qualities in either of them for me. The ending didn't entirely work for me but not enough to ruin the overall book.

This is a particularly good suspense novel so if that's up your alley, you may want to give this one a shot! It was definitely a creepy read!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Review: House of Echoes by Brendan Duffy

House of EchoesHouse of Echoes by Brendan Duffy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I learned about this book on a Book Riot podcast where they were recommending creepy books that had a sense of foreboding. And boy does this meet that requirement! This book got under my skin and totally creeped me out (and intrigued me)! This is a great book to read at this time of year!

The basic story is about a family that moves to a big, old house near the town where his grandmother grew up. They hope to fix this house up and open an inn. But, things don't quite work out as planned and the story goes from there.

There is something going on in this town and in the woods near this home but you don't quite know what it is until the end of the novel and all of the pieces come together. This novel is great reading, completely engrossing! I didn't want to put it down! This isn't horror in a traditional sense ... it's really much more of a suspenseful novel. But, I don't think a horror label is wrong, just that it's not traditional horror.

I definitely recommend this if you're looking for really great suspense that will keep you guessing! It's a really good read!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Review: Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

EileenEileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really wish I'd liked this book as much as some of my bookish friends. Although I thought it was good, it didn't quite make it over to great for me.

This is a good character study ... the characters, particularly Eileen, are what makes this novel successful. Going deep into Eileen's head while reading this novel was disturbing in every possible way. The level of disturbing that I found this book to be is a testament to Otessa Moshfegh's writing. She puts you in the head of a truly despicable and difficult to take person. And she does it very, very well.

If you love psychological thrillers, this might be worth your picking up. It is certainly one of the most in depth explorations of the psychology of a sick person that I think I've read. If you aren't a fan of characters that are difficult to like, then you should definitely avoid this one. It's very disturbing and dark. It's not for everyone.

It fell short for me in two ways - I didn't think the story itself was particularly engaging, there wasn't enough there to capture my imagination and keep me interested over the scope of the novel AND I wasn't a fan of the ending. It felt stilted and a little weak.

If you enjoy books that make you uncomfortable and ask you to confront dark things, this is definitely one you want to pick up. Although it didn't quite deliver for me, I know many readers have enjoyed the psychological exploration that this one allows a reader!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Review: Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Dumplin'Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

** Probably more of a 4.5 star book **

I don't normally do this but I'm going to quote another review here, one that expresses my feelings about this book more than I think I could.

Here is a review written by Kelly Jensen over at Book Riot -

"Earlier this summer, I talked about fat phobia in YA and noted that I hadn’t yet read Dumplin’ but had read a lot of positive reviews of it. It’s everything I wanted and more. This is a book where Willowdean, a fat girl who knows she’s fat and owns her body as such, but it’s a story about grief, about family, and about Dolly Parton impersonators. There is a sweet relationship that develops here, and I thought the experiences Willowdean had as a fat girl were realistic, honest, and vulnerable — a key element that so many of these books lack.

Willowdean has a real voice, and her voice isn’t 100% confident all the time. Despite being comfortable in her own skin, she has moments of absolutely feeling crushed beneath the expectations the world around her has for her and her body. And those things rang so painfully, authentically true.

We rarely get stories where the fat girl gets to be funny, have friendships, have romances, and have challenges unrelated to her body/”health” of her body. More, we rarely get them where the voice is key. And that’s because as a society, we silence fat people. We make them invisible. We make them make themselves disappear (and I say this as someone who has certainly seen the looks people give when you are climbing into an airplane seat or a bus seat and are made to shrink yourself, as to not take up space that you paid for and can fit perfectly within). So that Murphy gives Willowdean that voice? That’s powerful as hell, and teen girls who read this….FAT teen girls who read this…will see that they matter. That they are seen. That THEIR lives matter and are important and they are welcome and encouraged to take up all the space in their lives that they need to.

I only wish I could hand this book to my high school self. But I’m so glad it’s there for today’s readers."

I highly recommend this for young adults and adults alike. It's such a fantastic read. In addition, it's one of the few books about the overweight that felt true or real to me. I think there are very few books out there that tell a honest, unflinching view of obesity and how it impacts lives. Anyway, go read this one. I don't think you'll regret it!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Review: X by Sue Grafton

X (Kinsey Millhone, #24)X by Sue Grafton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me say up front that I'm a huge fan of this series and love to see what Kinsey is up to when a new one comes out!

There were a few different 'mysteries' being explored in this book and they were all pretty fantastic. I enjoyed each of the threads. I loved revisiting some of my favorite characters from the series! It's like visiting good friends after a long break!

Now that I've read X, I'm getting sad because that means there are only 2 books left in the series ... I've so enjoyed the series! If you haven't read it, I definitely recommend it. Although they can be read as stand alone novels, I think they are much better read from the beginning as they build upon each other!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Review: Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy

Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in AmericaGhettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I highly recommend this book and think it gives the reader a really interesting perspective on being black in America as well as the impact of murder on communities. It's really good. It is certainly a powerful and moving book that gave me a great deal to think about, particularly given the current state of race in America.

I think this, along with Coates' Between the World and Me, is a critical book to read as we try to understand the impact of racism on individuals, communities and our overall culture. I hope my exploration of these themes in my reading will help me to be more aware and more diligent about learning how to help change things.

I loved how this book made the victims truly come alive, off the page. It added to the impactfulness of the narrative.

I highly recommend this one ... in fact, I think it should be required reading for Americans today. It's an important book that explores issues that are critical to what is taking place in our country today.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Review: Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

Black-Eyed SusansBlack-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you love a good suspense novel, you should definitely pick this one up. It's so well written - the suspense is so well done due to expert plotting and good writing! The chapters are short and keep you on the edge of your seat! It's not in any way a difficult read but it does keep you guessing! It really made me think about memory in new ways. I love how this novel came together and I'm being cagey on purpose so as to not ruin the book for you!

I highly recommend this one ... such a great read, definitely worth picking up!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Review: The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman

The Fair FightThe Fair Fight by Anna Freeman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had heard good things about this one but the description didn't exactly grab me so I didn't read it for awhile. But, now I'm kicking myself because this was such a great book! Although it's certainly historical fiction, it's so much more! It's just fantastic reading!

The story centers around two women in Victorian England - one who is born in a brothel and is making her way by boxing and one who is wealthy and has all of the status one could hope for. This story brings these two women together and they must each fight for every single thing they want ... mostly from the men in their lives.

SO SO GOOD! It's bold and realistic. It clearly tells the ins and outs of life as a woman in Victorian England. The writing is fanatic. The story itself is really great. The story is gritty, compelling and bold in so many ways.

I really can't recommend this more, especially if you like historical fiction or are interested in exploring the state of women in Victorian England. But, frankly, I think this is a book anyone could enjoy regardless of what you typically read! I definitely recommend picking this one up!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Review: The Girl Who Slept with God by Val Brelinski

The Girl Who Slept with GodThe Girl Who Slept with God by Val Brelinski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a compelling story about a fascinating group of people! In truth, this is a coming of age story but it's so much more. It's about identity, religiosity, finding a family of your own, science vs. religious doctrine and MORE. This novel was so much more than I expected it to be. The basic premise is that it explores the experiences of a fundamental Christian family in the 1970s. One of the daughters who is extremely devout returns from a mission trip pregnant and insists it's God's baby. This incident has an incredible impact on all of the members of this family and other members of the community. The unfolding of the story was so well handled, told in a very non-judgmental but questioning way. It felt realistic to the time period as well as the place (rural Idaho).

I was completely engrossed in this novel, didn't want to put it down as I found the struggles of this family and how each family member dealt with this fascinating and frustrating and heartbreaking.

I highly recommend this novel. It explores very timely things despite it being placed in the past. I found it compelling and thought-provoking.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Review: The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

The Kind Worth KillingThe Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Probably more of a 4.5 star rating but not quite a 5 star rating)

WOW! What a book! I loved this one and it's a book that will probably be enjoyed by fans of Gone Girl and Girl on the Train. Definitely suspenseful, well plotted, and written so well!

So entertaining and it felt very easy to read but not simple, if that makes sense. It has some complexity and yet moves quickly, keeping you on your literary toes! And the characters ... that is one of the things I loved most about this book as it gets you into the minds of so many fascinating people! I found the plot twists believable and I never felt bored for a moment. This is a book that surprised me over and over.

Such a fun and twisted thriller! I highly recommend it. Very nice book to use as a 'palette cleanser' between heavier, more literary novels. You won't regret reading this one!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Review: The Survivors: A Cal Henderson Novel

The Survivors: A Cal Henderson NovelThe Survivors: A Cal Henderson Novel by Robert Palmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm really excited about this new series. The description alone grabbed me ... a psychologist main character with an interesting backstory (which is really explored heavily in this first in the series) that takes place in the DC area. So intriguing to me!

And, luckily, it's a really good start to the series. I really found the story engaging, the characters well drawn and the narrative arc to be successful. I think Cal (the psychologist) is a fascinating character and I can't wait to get to know him better. The secondary characters were quite well drawn and I found myself intrigued and eager to see where they go in the future!

I really enjoyed this one and I look forward to seeing what Robert Palmer has in store for us in the future! I highly recommend to fans of mystery/thriller type novels. I think this series has a lot of promise. I think it would be extra fun for those familiar with the DC area as I felt like an insider since I could see many of the places in my mind.

Note: I received this e-galley from the publisher for an honest review.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #1)The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a wonderful book! After hearing some mixed reviews, I was worried I wouldn't love it but I really did enjoy it. I will say that there are some things I wish had been done better but I am overlooking some of those things given that it is a debut novel. I'm hoping the future novels in the trilogy will improve upon this one!

This is a fantasy novel but I found it to be very approachable even for someone who isn't a huge fantasy fan. It is centered around a young girl so it could also be viewed as young adult but I didn't find it to be too youthful or anything like that. Definitely good for adults and young adults.

I love the world that Erika Johansen has created although I will admit that I'd like MORE of the world building. I'm hoping that's to come. I want to know more about the world that this book takes place in. I feel like I was given just a little amount and now I'm eager for lots more! The world offers an interesting mix of feudal society and modern life given that the novel takes place in a future post-apocalyptic version of our world. We didn't get enough detail on that but it was enough to wet my appetite!

I found this novel entertaining, interesting and I enjoyed every moment. There wasn't much of an in depth plot in this one - it felt more like an introduction to Kelsea and the world she's in. I'm interested in seeing if the second novel is more plot driven. This felt a little like 'Game of Thrones light' in some ways which I found interesting.

All in all, I definitely recommend. I can't wait to see where the trilogy takes us! This isn't a perfect book but I did like where it took me and I'm interested to see where it goes!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Review Michael Symon's 5 in 5 for Every Season: 165 Quick Dinners, Sides, Holiday Dishes, and More by Michael Symon

Michael Symon's 5 in 5 for Every Season: 165 Quick Dinners, Sides, Holiday Dishes, and MoreMichael Symon's 5 in 5 for Every Season: 165 Quick Dinners, Sides, Holiday Dishes, and More by Michael Symon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I absolutely love the premise of this cookbook - building recipes around the seasonal ingredients available to you at any given time. It's such a great way to think about food! And who better to pull together a cookbook about seasonal cooking! Michael Symon is one of my favorite 'celebrity' chefs! He has such a realism and honesty about him that I find refreshing.

What I most enjoyed about this cookbook is the mix of ingredients explored in the recipes. There are traditional ingredients being offered in new ways and 'new to me' ingredients are sprinkled through in very attainable ways. I love that mix. It helps to give me that confidence to try new things but also know that I can dip in for recipes of ingredients that I already love.

The book itself is nice - a paperback with nice paper, simple design and beautiful photos. I do wish there was a photo of every recipe. There wasn't anything fancy here - just solid design, nice photos and easy to follow recipes. Sometimes simple is the best way!

I am eager to try a number of the recipes ... here are just a few on my try soon list:

Quick Asparagus & Goat Cheese Frittata
Sweet Corn Fritters
Fried Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms
Scallops with Chinese Green Beans and Radish
White Bean Crostini with Arugula
Rigatoni with Mushrooms and Sage
Orecchiette with Brussels Sprouts and Bacon
Chicken Breasts with Bacon & Brussels Sprouts
Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Pecorino
Mashed Potato Cakes with Parmesan

Overall, I really like this cookbook and look forward to jumping in and trying some of the recipes!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Review: A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell

A Reunion of GhostsA Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a wonderful novel! Such an interesting exploration of family and how actions in one time and place can impact future generations. I really found this entire novel to be quite different and compelling.

The exploration of this family is so thorough, so interesting ... the details that Mitchell includes are just fascinating. These men and women became so real to me as I read. Although there is a great deal of tragedy explored in the book, this novel is in no way maudlin or depressing. This is such a smart book, the exploration of this family and their experiences just surprised me with how fantastic it was!

I think this is a book that will work for so many people. There is so much to explore and think about. This would probably be a great book club book actually. I really enjoyed it and recommend it highly! Really unusual and compelling fiction! Definitely worth the read!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Review: Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil WarLiar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is such a fascinating book - it covers four women who went undercover during the Civil War. The stories are fantastic and I really enjoyed getting to know these fascinating women. I also enjoyed the general history lesson that I got from reading this one. Very readable and interesting. I wouldn't say its dry at all.

I loved how much I was able to learn about what DC and Richmond, VA were like at this time in our history. Having grown up in Richmond and currently living in DC, it was nice to be able to place things in my mind as I read.

I love that these four women felt so strongly about their cause that they decided to DO something about it. So nice for us to be able to learn about their struggles and accomplishments. I also think this was a fascinating book to read given the current dialogue in America regarding race. Much of the dialogue in the book around the Confederate cause sounded very similar to things I see and hear in the media every day. Kind of sad to see how little we've grown since the abolishment of slavery. BUT, it did inspire me to keep fighting the good fight and not stop learning and trying to move things forward.

I highly recommend this if you're interested in narrative non-fiction, the Civil War, race, or women. It's really something everyone could get something out of! Such a great book - I won't forget these women!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Review: A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

A Window OpensA Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book that I initially heard about from Ann on the Books on the Nightstand podcast. I've since seen it get quite a bit of coverage in magazines. And I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this novel. It was a fairly easy read that also explored some very serious things that I could definitely relate to such as working full-time and being a mom. Trying to be a great employee while also effectively caring for family can be such a challenge. It was nice to see a book that focuses on a career woman and the challenges that she faces each day.

I really liked the characters and the overall story line. There is also a lot of content around books. Which I loved, of course. Good characters and lots of books ... yep, that's my wheelhouse!

I definitely recommend this one, especially if you're interested in all things books or working moms. It's a good read!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Review: Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Fates and FuriesFates and Furies by Lauren Groff
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is such hard review for me to write because I seem to be one of the very few people who didn't love this novel. I've been hearing great things about it from so many different people so I was hopeful going in ... and the subject matter is fascinating as it takes a look at marriage. Unfortunately, the novel as a whole just fell flat for me. I liked it but it didn't blow me away.

Let me start with the positives - Lauren Groff can write! There were lines that blew me away. However, I will say that her plot writing can be a little off-putting sometimes. It's a blend of amazing writing and pacing that didn't quite work for me. I just had trouble really connecting with her writing as a whole - I could find beauty in some of the sentences or passages but then BAM I was frustrated by something. It was just a jarring reading experience for me. The actual exploration of a marriage was well done. There were surprises that were aptly handled by Groff. It's nice when a literary novel surprises you like this one does.

I think two things I never completely connected with the characters and since it was a character study of the inside of a marriage, it would have been nice to have connected in some way even if they were not so relate-able characters. I liked how Groff explored the interaction of these two people - essentially going into each of their experiences and looking at the marriage from both perspectives. But, when you can't find anything interesting about either character, it's hard to care that much. I don't need likeable characters - in fact, I like unlikeable characters - but I do need characters that I find interesting or fascinating. And I just never got there with this novel.

Perhaps this one was too literary for me (whatever that means) but I just didn't connect with it. I will acknowledge that Groff is a great writer but I just didn't love this one. But, I can't really recommend or not recommend it - so many others have loved it so if you're a Groff fan or the premise sounds interesting, I'd say go for it!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review: Slade House by David Mitchell

Slade HouseSlade House by David Mitchell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh David Mitchell! I'm so glad I discovered you ... This man's mind is like no one else's and I mean that in the best way. I'm fascinated by his stories and his mind blowing creativity! Really enjoyed this book! It's such a quick but impactful read! Just because it's short doesn't mean it isn't insanely good! I just love how David Mitchell thinks about the world. His characters are so real and quirky and wonderful. OK, I'll stop gushing!

This is a really creepy and interesting story about a haunted house but that's an oversimplification. It's so much more than a haunted house. The great thing is that it isn't scary in any way ... it's just creepy and gets under your skin in a great way!

This novel is so readable, so compelling, and so creepy! I highly recommend it. It would make a great introduction to David Mitchell although I'd recommend reading The Bone Clocks first which takes place in the same world as this book. It will give you some context you'd miss if you went with this one first. But, again, it's definitely a stand alone novel and easily read without any prior knowledge of David Mitchell!

This one comes out on October 27th so I highly recommend that you pick this one up and read it ... it's a great Halloween read!

NOTE: Received e-galley from the publisher for an honest review.

Review: The Lake House by Kate Morton

The Lake HouseThe Lake House by Kate Morton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This may be my new favorite Kate Morton novel. It was such a compelling read! I think that she did a great job interweaving the story from the past with the story from the present.

Many of Morton's novels seem to be of a similar type (and this is no exception) - something tragic happens in the past and then it's somehow brought to the present and the stories come together into one. There is often an old home that the story centers around. She ticks all of those boxes with this novel. I can understand some of the reviews I've read that didn't like the fact that Morton's books all seem to follow a formula. There are enough similarities in the books that I've read of hers to see that there is some truth there. But, for me, I enjoyed this one quite a bit. Partly that was because I enjoyed the characters in this one so much. The formula didn't get in the way of my enjoyment of the story because I was so intrigued by the specifics of this particular story. One of the characters is a novelist and I found it so fascinating to jump into her world for a bit!

As all her novels have been, I found this one to be really well plotted with lots of intrigue! Kate Morton is a master at using family secrets to create a multi-faceted story that keeps you on your toes! I definitely recommend this particular novel which I think is one of her best!

NOTE: Received e-galley from the publisher for an honest review.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Review: Gemini by Carol Cassella

GeminiGemini by Carol Cassella
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Although I liked this book, it didn't quite live up to my expectations. The story was interesting but it didn't blow me away. I saw the ending coming which was a little disappointing. I enjoyed the weaving in and out of two narratives that ultimately come together. The writing was good - at times great - but there were times that the plot felt as if it was bogged down for me. Too slow or it needed to be edited a bit more. I'm not sure what it was but it wasn't what I'd describe as a quick read. Although the characters were all fine, I did feel like everything came together a little too easily, to the point that it felt unrealistic to me. I had to suspend belief a few times during this one. Which isn't a problem but given the nature of the story, I was expecting a bit more realism.

All in all, a solid book. I recommend it especially if you have an interest in medical related stories or stories that tell a complex and overlapping narrative. I was so hopeful that I'd love this one so I was disappointed but that doesn't mean it's not a solid read!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Review: Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes: A Novel by Jules Moulin

Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes: A NovelAlly Hughes Has Sex Sometimes: A Novel by Jules Moulin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a fun little book! Immensely readable and engaging! It was a fairly light read but so much fun. I really liked the characters and how the story played out. This one is a little quirky and a little funny ... and definitely a little sexy! But, in the best way! I love books that capture my imagination and make me not want to put the book down and this was one of those. So light and fun!

I loved Ally - she is such an interesting and compelling character. I loved following her life and seeing her view of the world play out in this novel. She's such a fantastic character. The pacing is fast, the writing very quick and concise. I read somewhere that the author wrote for television which totally makes sense to me. This book really reads like a well written TV show but in novel form.

I really found this book to be a delight! I am looking forward to seeing what Jules Moulin brings us next! Definitely recommend!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Review: In the Language of Miracles by Rajia Hassib

In the Language of MiraclesIn the Language of Miracles by Rajia Hassib
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was really looking forward to this novel after hearing rave reviews from a number of people that I trust. And it was good ... but it didn't quite live up to my expectations. I'm not going into the plot much since this is one of those books best read without a lot of information. In essence, it's about family, community, religion, grief and connection. And it's definitely worth reading.

It's a story about a family trying to raise their family and find their place within their community. I loved the insight into Egyptian culture. In fact, I wish there had been even more of that. I completely understand all of the rave reviews that I've read but I just wasn't as taken with this novel as I'd hoped. I never felt completely connected to the characters and I found that it was quite slow at times. I think the point was to move the plot along slowly but it made me less engaged as a reader.

The thing this book does better than anything is tackling the complex emotions at the center of grief. Hassib brings the many faces of grief alive and handles it with poise and sensitivity.

Don't take my 3 star review as a negative ... I did quite like this one but I didn't like it nearly as much as others have. So, if the premise is of interest to you, definitely pick it up. But, be careful not to read too much about it. I think it's better to come to the story with little information.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Review: Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, a Virginia Town, a Civil Rights Battle by Kristen Green

Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, a Virginia Town, a Civil Rights BattleSomething Must Be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, a Virginia Town, a Civil Rights Battle by Kristen Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book tells the compelling (and appalling) story of Prince Edward County, Virginia, which shuttered its public schools in the 1950s, rather than integrating them. I think this book was especially good, given the context of what America is facing right now in terms of race. Much of the commentary in the 1950s are things I still hear today via social media. It's amazing how little has changed with relation to race in America in 65 years.

I spent 2 years at Longwood College which is in Farmville, VA so this book was particularly interesting to me as someone who spent quite a bit of time in Prince Edward County in the early 1990s. The references to what was happening in Richmond (where I'm from) during this time were also fascinating. It makes me sad to know that the place that I come from, a place that I love, was the epicenter of so much hatred and bigotry.

The level of hatred and ignorance explored in this book really is appalling. But, I think Kristen Green does a great job of exploring those things while acknowledging the positive things in this community. It's a dichotomy that I struggle with on a daily basis. My beliefs are VERY different from much of my southern family and it can be difficult to love someone who is so full of hate for anyone different from them. I found Green's book to be helpful in terms of putting some of that in perspective for myself.

Green does a compelling job of weaving history and memoir in this book. It reads like a novel - so easy and effortless yet extremely thought-provoking.

Another reviewer (Elizabeth Hall Magill) put together such an eloquent review that I thought I'd share just a snippet that really sums up my own feelings about this book.
For her history is our collective history—and acknowledging that at this historical moment, as black churches burn throughout the South and we continue to speak about racism as if it is both debatable and long gone, is a vital step in our journey toward a future that doesn't repeat our past.

This is a book that everyone should read ... to help open our eyes to the fact that racism is still strong all these years after the civil rights movement and to help us try to understand how we can learn from the past and try to do (MUCH) better in the future!

I highly recommend this book to any and all - it's a powerful book that will give you a great deal to think about ...

Review: Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain

Pretending to DancePretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I find that Diane Chamberlain consistently provides strong storytelling, books that impact me emotionally, make me think and feel. And this one is much the same. I found the story in this novel to be quite good - very engaging, interesting and unique. I love how Chamberlain can weave such a good tale, build complex characters and ultimately make me FEEL a part of the story.

I really enjoyed how the chapters alternate between Molly's present and her past. The slow burn of learning pieces about her childhood and how they have made her who she is today. The exploration of family, loss and forgiveness were superb. I really liked how things came together even if the ending felt a bit quick. I felt like it tied things up a little more quickly than I'd expected. This wasn't bad ... just surprising to me.

I definitely recommend this one, especially if you love Chamberlain's other novels or if you enjoy a good family drama. Really enjoyed this one. This novel is released on October 6, 2015 so I would recommend you get it on your library hold list! Her books are usually quite popular!

NOTE: the publisher provided me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

ArmadaArmada by Ernest Cline
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Since Ready Player One was one of my favorite books in the year that it was released, I had truly high hopes for this one. I think Ernest Cline has a really unique voice and I was eager to fall into the world he creates again. And this is a good book ... but it's no Ready Player One and it suffers from the comparison. I think that many of the less than positive reviews I've seen seem to be focusing on how this book wasn't Ready Player One. I really tried to see this book on it's own but it's difficult to do. I really struggled to not compare it to Ready Player One.

The story here was interesting - essentially a compilation of a bunch of different pop culture references. I enjoyed seeing how Cline put those pieces together. There is still a lot of gaming, Star Wars, etc. All of that is great. But, what's missing is that something that makes the reading experience sing. I'm not sure what it is but this book just didn't have that sense of awe that I had reading Ready Player One. It was quite good but just not everything I'd hoped.

I still highly recommend this one, especially if you have a love for 80's pop culture and gaming. But, don't go in expecting Ready Player One because this book is not that. It's definitely a good book in its own right but I do think it suffers from comparison. I still love Ernest Cline and can't wait to see what he has in store for us next!

(I struggled with rating this one. It's more a 3.5 than a 3 but not quite a 4).

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

Monday, September 7, 2015

Review: Doc by Mary Doria Russell

DocDoc by Mary Doria Russell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me start with the fact that I'm not a western girl ... I have no interest in anything western or in the wild west. The only other book about the west that I've read is Lonesome Dove which is an amazing book. But, a number of people who I trust have said they enjoyed this one so I decided to give it a shot. Plus, it's written by Mary Doria Russell who is an amazing writer. If anyone could interest me in the wild west, she can!

And I so enjoyed this novel ... I know almost nothing about Wyatt Earp or Doc Holliday other than the very basics. This book was really good at getting me up to speed on life in the west at that time in history as well as grounding me in the people and relationships surrounding these men. Doc is a fascinating character and I love how Russell shows us the good and bad of this really interesting man. Her depiction of the west was also quite interesting ... for the first time, I was interested in thinking about what life was like at that time in history. I love how this novel gave me insight into a time and place in history that I was sure that I didn't care about. She ultimately made me care much more than I'd ever have thought possible!

This isn't a fast book to read. The pacing is slow and the descriptions are thorough. The pacing is primarily what I'd describe as leisurely. It won't be for everyone but I really enjoyed this one! I'm looking forward to reading Epitaph which continues this story by following Wyatt and Doc to Tombstone, AZ. I definitely recommend this one ... if you enjoy historical fiction, this is really more of that than a western!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Review: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and RedemptionJust Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a fantastic book that I would suggest should be read by almost everyone. It explores justice in the context of Bryan Stevenson's legal work on behalf of those who are in prison (particularly the children, mentally ill, poor, and minorities who have not been given fair treatment via the justice system). It is an extremely compassionate and unflinching look at the justice system. America has become so focused on punishment and all but ignores the possibilities of rehabilitation, that we are a nation of prisons. The stories that Stevenson shares in this book will outrage you, make you sad, make you feel powerless and make you want to do something to change things. It's a beautiful book and I highly recommend it. I am in awe of the work that Bryan Stevenson does for those who need help. His work is so important to so many people. I highly recommend this book to any and everyone. It's such an important book for all of us.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Review: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

The Bone ClocksThe Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was my first David Mitchell and I suspect that I will quickly be moving through his back list. I now completely understand the buzz that I always hear about David Mitchell. I found this entire novel to be fantastic! The writing was beautiful - let's just say that Mitchell can write! The plotting and how he put the story together was amazing. There were times when I had no idea what was happening and yet I couldn't stop reading. That always tells me I'm reading something fantastic. The characters were unlike any I'd ever read before - complex, realistic, funny, interesting, and more. Mitchell seems to see the world in a really interesting way and I loved reading his vision for this book.

I loved the exploration of time and mortality. I found the pulling together of the bits and pieces to be done quite well. I enjoyed reading about Mitchell's view of the human condition. I felt transported by this story and loved thinking about everything that Mitchell explores here.

Although not a perfect book, I did enjoy the storytelling enough to rate it pretty high despite it's flaws. I'm really glad that I finally read Mitchell and I look forward to following up with more of his work, especially since I understand that he views his novels as part of an overarching novel he's writing. I think I'll go back and read from the beginning.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Review: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

The Heart Goes LastThe Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I am so uncomfortable with the idea of rating an Atwood book 2 stars but I feel like I have to given my experience with this novel. I typically love Atwood's novels - but this just didn't live up to my expectations. The premise is good - I love how Atwood views dystopian situations and I think this particular premise had a great deal of promise. And the book began quite well - I was engaged, interested and it was very readable. But, at a certain point, the novel went off the rails and just never made it back for me. It went from promising to completely bizarre and just didn't recover. I only kept reading because I was convinced that Atwood would take all of this oddness to a place that would redeem the entire work. Unfortunately, that didn't happen for me. It fell flat over and over. The plot moved quickly into ridiculous, the characters were odd (and not in a good way), the premise went to bizarre-land and never veered back and the tropes felt insanely familiar (perhaps recycled?).

I really hate having to rate this so low but I can't help it. I didn't connect with this novel and I think this may well be the worst Atwood I've ever read. If I were you, I'd stick to her earlier work (specifically - The Handmaid's Tale and the MaddAddamm series beginning with Oryx and Crake). She can be entirely genius but I just didn't find that to be the case with this novel.

NOTE: Received this e-galley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Rising Strong by Brené Brown

Rising StrongRising Strong by Brené Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Brene Brown and I was excited to hear that she had another book coming out to continue to help people deal with vulnerability and authenticity. I've gotten a great deal out of all of her previous books and am happy to say that I got a great deal out of this one as well. Brene has a way of writing what would be called 'self-help' in a very non-traditional way. I walk away from her books feeling like I have new strategies to use in my real life but I never feel preached at or anything like that. I almost feel like I'm reading the notes of a good friend, helping me to be the best me that I can be!

My exposure to Brene's work has changed me in many very impactful ways. It's changed the way I think about my relationships with people - my family, my friends, my professional relationships. It's changed the way I talk to myself. It's changed the way that I parent my children.

This book was really interesting as it builds on the previous books (although you can definitely read this as a stand-alone). It focuses on what happens when you fail - and how to make the transition from failure to recovery. I love how Brene focuses on providing a variety of examples that give you very tangible strategies for maneuvering this transition in your own way.

I definitely recommend this book (and any of Brene's books). I think they are some of the only 'self-help' books that have truly changed my life and my relationships. I can't wait to see what she has coming in the future!

NOTE: I received an e-galley of this book from the publisher for an honest review

Review: Playing with Fire by Kate Meader

Playing with Fire (Hot in Chicago, #2)Playing with Fire by Kate Meader
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I will admit that I was hesitant going into this novel as I had not been much of a fan of the characters that this one focuses on. But, I'm really happy to say that I enjoyed this one quite a bit and found myself liking the characters more as their stories were explored in more depth. This one focuses on the mayor and a female firefighter and the way they challenge each other. I liked how both of these characters were strong personalities who ultimately found their match. I love the mix of romance, funny banter and a tiny bit of drama! I enjoyed this one just as much as the first in the series and recommend them both if you want a good, quality contemporary romance that is neither annoying or cheesy! Kate Meader has created a great group of characters in this series and I'm really enjoying seeing how they all grow and change throughout the series.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Review: Aquarium by David Vann

AquariumAquarium by David Vann
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is such a fantastic novel - beautifully written, raw and beautiful, and so endlessly readable! This is one of those books that I highlighted a ton of the prose because it was so beautiful. I didn't come to this novel with a lot of information, I knew that several of my bookish friends liked it and had heard about how beautiful the book was with the beautiful photos of the fish. Although I read the e-book, I still enjoyed the photos although I suspect they are even more impactful when reading from the physical novel.

I didn't know much about this novel before reading and I recommend that you don't read much about it before reading it. I think the journey is part of what's so amazing about this book.

This is a story about family, forgiveness, love and redemption. It's about finding out that your parents are human, with their own demons. It's really fantastic! Such a beautiful book. It's not an easy book - it's dark and there is violence and pain. Yet, the beauty of the book makes up for the darkness. There is so much here that I loved.

Here are just a few of the amazing passages in this novel -

“The worst part of childhood is not knowing that bad things pass, that time passes. A terrible moment in childhood hovers with s kind of eternity, unbearable.”
“Maybe this is as near as we can come to forgiveness. Not the past wiped away, nothing undone, but some willingness in the present, some recognition and embrace and slowing down.”
“Each one a little bit different but following some blueprint somewhere. As if each of us might have a blueprint. As if somewhere there's the shape of my life, and I had the chance to choose a few variations, but not far from the pattern.”
“Anything is possible with a parent. Parents are gods. They make us and they destroy us. They warp the world and remake it in their own shape, and that's the world we know forever after. It's the only world. We can't see what it might have looked like otherwise.”

I highly recommend this novel but know that there is darkness in this one. I think the violence was handled well within the context of the story and doesn't feel as difficult as it might have without David Vann's deft hand. It's beautiful and I won't forget this one for some time!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

UprootedUprooted by Naomi Novik
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me say upfront that I'm not really a fantasy fan - it's one of the genres that rarely calls to me. I actually only picked this book up after hearing Liberty (and I think Rebecca also raved) at Book Riot rave about it. She made it sound amazing and I couldn't resist giving it a try. AND I AM SO GLAD THAT I DID!

Yes, this is fantasy but it's so much more! Although there is magic and it's essentially a fairy tale, it's so well-written and engaging that I have a hard time thinking of it as fantasy. Naomi Novik is such a great writer - she's pulled together an amazing story arc, created such real and lively characters and made it infinitely readable! I didn't want to put this novel down. I was fully engaged in the world that Novik creates and felt a part of the action!

I really would call this novel magical ... there is a sense of such charm in every word. And there is that good vs. evil thematic focus that I loved. The entire story was fascinating. I don't want to tell you much about it because it was so fun to follow it throughout the novel. But, I definitely recommend it to fantasy and non-fantasy fans! I think anyone who enjoys a good story will find themselves intrigued by this novel!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Review: Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace by D.T. Max

Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster WallaceEvery Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace by D.T. Max
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Although I've only read David Foster Wallace's non-fiction, I've been fascinated with him for some time. I was eager to read this biography in order to better understand him and his work. I'm not sure that I'll ever read his fiction but I appreciated being able to better understand him in the context of his life and work.

For someone who knows very little about DFW, this biography did a great job of bringing me up to speed on his life, his work and his death. I definitely feel like I understand him a bit more. I am glad that I read it but I'm not sure that this would be very enjoyable for people who has closely followed DFW in the media as it appears that much of the book was pulled from interviews, etc. But, I did enjoy the access that the author had to DFW's friends and family which I do think gave the book a bit more substance.

If you are interested in DFW, I definitely think this is worth the read. Especially if you know very little about him and his work. If you're a big DFW fan who has read much of his work & followed him in the media, you may not get as much out of this book. I am glad that I read it and I do continue to find DFW fascinating as a person and a writer.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Review: Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and LeadDaring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a big fan of Brene Brown after reading her earlier work so I have had this one on my TBR pile for awhile. And, as expected, this one is fantastic! I love how Brene Brown is helping so many of us understand vulnerability so that we can change how we think and behave in order to be stronger. I especially appreciated the pieces in this one about parenting as I related a great deal. This book gave me specific strategies for working on my own guilt and shame as well as very concrete strategies for helping my children. I think this is one of those books that can literally change lives. It really is transformative and can help us become more authentic! I highly recommend this book as well as any of her other books.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Review: The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs: A Novel by Matthew Dicks

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs: A NovelThe Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs: A Novel by Matthew Dicks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a long time fan of Matthew Dicks so I was excited to see that he had a new novel coming on September 8, 2015! I wanted to go ahead and get this review out so that you can get this on your library hold list or add it to your buy soon list! It's such a charming and adventurous novel that I just loved! Such a sweet novel about self-discovery, mothers & daughter, family and going home!

This story centers around a woman who has always been a kind, sweet person who doesn't stand up for herself. Until she does. From the moment she finds her voice, the novel becomes an adventure of sorts with this woman and her teenage daughter going back to the woman's hometown. It's about becoming yourself and finding your voice. This one is very readable and engaging! It's a fairly quick read but a really fun and interesting one! I definitely recommend it!

Review: The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch

The Small Backs of ChildrenThe Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've never read Lidia Yuknavitch before but I'd heard great things so I was eager to read this novel once I heard about it. It's very dark, very raw. It's definitely not for everyone. The thing that struck me most was what a wonderful writer that Yuknavitch is ... wow, some of the passages in this book just BLEW ME AWAY. She can put words together in the amazing way.

This book is odd and discomforting. No one has a name in this novel - they are referred to by what they do - The Writer, The Photographer, etc. I love how the author pulls together each of these people into a story. They are woven so effortlessly. The writing style is interesting - almost unemotional (despite the tragedy and pain being described) and bare. The narrative shifts constantly from person to person but stays cohesive. It's pretty amazing to watch the narrative grow and move. It almost feels like poetry in some way. It's very hard to describe (for me) but extremely effective.

There are a number of graphic scenes of consensual and non-consensual sex. If that makes you uncomfortable, this is not the book for you. There is quite a bit of violence - sexual and non-sexual. Its very descriptive and disturbing. I felt unsettled the entire time I read this novel. By the end, I felt almost exhausted by the pain and suffering woven throughout the novel. I had a very visceral reaction to this novel. It's hard to say that I enjoyed it ... given its disturbing nature. But, it certainly affected me emotionally and made me think about pain, redemption and healing in new ways.

Three words to describe this novel are disturbing, haunting and brutal. It's definitely not for everyone but if you think you can get past the violence, I think it's worth the read. It's certainly a powerful book.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Five Books to Look for in Fall 2015

It looks like there are some fantastic books coming this fall so I thought I'd give you the details of five of the books I'm hearing a lot about in case you want to go ahead and get on your library hold list or go ahead and pre-order a copy!

Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies

I am hearing really great things about this new Lauren Groff novel! I hear that it's an examination of a marriage which sounds really good to me. I have read just one of her two previous novels and really enjoyed it. I actually hope to pick this one up - given its subject matter and the good things I'm hearing! (Coming 9/15/15)

Margaret Atwood's The Heart Goes Last

I'm always excited when there is a new Margaret Atwood novel coming and this one sounds fascinating. It's a dystopian novel about a couple in a bad place who hear about a social experiment that sounds like it could solve all their problems. And signing up means all they have to do in return for a nice, safe suburban home is give up their freedom every second month – swapping their home for a prison cell.  This premise sounds very promising. I've gotten a galley of this one so I'm fairly certain I'll get to it  in the next month or so! (Coming 9/29/15)

Jonathan Franzen's Purity

I've never read any of Franzen's work. None of them have sounded particularly interesting. However, I have heard quite a bit from Franzen in the media and social media so I have  sense of who he is. I'm not sure he's an author that I'll ever be connected with but his having a new novel is definitely news! I'm not ruling out reading this one but we'll see. I'll have to see how those I trust feel about it before deciding if I want to give it a shot.  (Coming 9/1/15)

Garth Risk Hallberg's City on Fire

This is a first novel that's getting a lot of attention because of the manuscript having been sold for sever figures. At more than 700 pages, I'm not sure that this one will be going on my TBR unless I'm hearing it's amazing. 700 pages is a big commitment! It apparently takes place in 1970's New York. I'm interested to hear more about this one ... 

Geraldine Brooks' The Secret Chord

I'm really intriged by this new Brooks novel which apparently imagines the story of King David. According to Goodreads, the story peels 'away the myth to bring David to life in Second Iron Age Israel, Brooks traces the arc of his journey from obscurity to fame, from shepherd to soldier, from hero to traitor, from beloved king to murderous despot and into his remorseful and diminished dotage.' Well, that sounds fascinating and I am definitely adding this one to my TBR.  It sounds fantastic and I trust Geraldine Brooks to do this one right!