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!