Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Review: Dare to Love by Carly Phillips

Dare to Love (Dare to Love, #1)Dare to Love by Carly Phillips
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another new series for me … I picked this one up randomly and could not put it down! It captivated me immediately. Ian Dare and Riley Taylor just grabbed onto me and did not let go. Very hot, lots of romance and sex. The chemistry between Ian and Riley just flies off the page. It’s so powerful. The background story with the siblings and their family drama felt a little out there. And yet, Phillips made me believe it and see its impact despite it being a bit out of this world. Very much about family as well as love. It did feel as if they fell into each other awful fast … I missed some of that early relationship building but it eventually worked itself out. Ultimately, the book was really good. Off to read the rest of the series!

NOTE: I've already read #2 and it was fantastic! And I'm half way through #3 and enjoying it as well!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Review: A Gentleman in the Street by Alisha Rai

A Gentleman in the Street (The Campbell Siblings, #1)A Gentleman in the Street by Alisha Rai
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve really enjoyed the other Alisa Rai’s books that I’ve read so I was eager to read this one which is the first in the Campbell Siblings series. It took me awhile to connect with this one. It’s pretty provocative from the start. If you don’t like sexy, skip this one. LOTS of sexy. But, I did come to really enjoy the story itself and the characters at its center. This is edgy romance at it’s best. Rai is such a wonderful storyteller. She brings people and stories to life in such a beautiful way. Ultimately, a really fun read with lots of kink! But, not for everyone!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Review: The Idea of You by Robinne Lee

The Idea of YouThe Idea of You by Robinne Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had no idea what I was getting into with this book. I’d heard several of my bookish friends talk about how good this one was and I needed something light as a palette cleanser so I picked it up. And WOW! One of the best romances I’ve ever read … It’s a beautiful story and the characters were outstanding. It’s essentially the story of an older woman with a teenaged daughter who meets a much younger man who is a member of a boy band that her daughter loves. Their story was so well told. The challenges faced by Solene in the book were so well explored. This is one of those books that literally swept me away into another world. I didn’t want to put it down. It’s emotional depth is outstanding. The skill it takes to make a reader FEEL so much from just the words on a page … it’s amazing! Highly recommend this one! It’s wonderful!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Review: Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

HexHex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I heard someone on a Bookriot podcast talk about this book and I knew that I had to read it. This book is CREEPY and ODD in every way. A witch from the 17th century haunts a town – no one is allowed to leave the town. She wanders around with her eyes and mouth sewn shut. She shows up in your house out of nowhere, just standing there. The town itself centers life around this witch and making life in the town bearable and protecting outsiders from the curse. There was some graphic violence here and LOTS of creepiness. If you don’t like the weird and scary, skip this one. If you do, you should read this one. I was fascinated by the concept and how the author kept the tension moving the plot along. Very chilling. Very scary. Not for everyone but really interesting reading for those who like horror and scary books!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Review: Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta

Mrs. FletcherMrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was listening to an interview with Tom Perrotta about his book and was so engaged by the concepts he’s exploring that I ran and picked up the book. It explores sexuality, identity, being a parent, and how our choices can change our lives. The exploration of internet porn and how it’s changing our culture is fascinating. This is something that I wonder about often as the mother of two 12 year olds. The culture and our views of sexuality are so different than they were when I was young. I was looking forward to Perrotta really going deep with these ideas. Yet, I don’t feel like it was explored as deeply as I’d hoped. It some ways, I felt like it started down a path of exploration but then got lost along the way and focused on other things. And it never really got back to the interesting ideas it starts with. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoyed it … I did. The novel is immensely readable. Very compelling and thoughtful. The combination of humor and social commentary that Perotta is known for is definitely on display in this novel. The character are all so flawed but drawn in such real terms that they felt very dynamic to me. All in all, I really liked this one. If you’re a Perrotta fan, I think you should definitely pick this one up!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Review: You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson

You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to ExplainYou Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall, I really liked this book. I think these essays are very timely and relevant, particularly in the US today, and tell us important things about race and identity. Robinson’s voice is smart, witty, thoughtful and straightforward. These essays helped me see how race impacts marginalized people in a very personal way. We can read about race all day but never really understand the day to day impact of race on people. These essays really did give me so much to think about. She is FUNNY. She is SMART. She is FANTASTIC! I highly recommend this one!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Review: Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American CityEvicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while but it just never made it to the top of the pile. It’s won a ton of awards, including the Pulitzer Prize! I’m so glad that I finally picked it up - it really lived up to the praise I’ve been hearing. I did not want to put this down. It’s compelling and devastating at the same time. This book tells the story of poverty in America in such a refreshing and real way. It reads like a novel, not a nonfiction book. The book follows 8 families in Milwaukee as they try to live their lives and provide for their families. It’s heartbreaking in so many ways. We all think that we know what life is like for the poor but this book really puts you in their shoes in a way that opens your eyes to things you’ve never thought of before.

All of the people in this book want to do better but institutional forces make it so difficult for the poor. They spend the vast majority of their money on rent and have inevitably fallen behind. They can barely feed their children but are paying almost all of their money for a home that is often in terrible shape – no water, plumbing not working, the house covered in lead paint, etc. If they ask for things to be fixed, they are likely to be evicted. It’s brutal. It’s heartbreaking. It’s infuriating. We have got to do better! How can we expect people who are struggling with such basics as a roof over their head or food on the table to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and pull their family out of poverty? We do everything we can to make it close to impossible and then blame them for the situation that they find themselves in. I thought that I knew about poverty, housing and evictions after my years as a social worker but WOW … I learned so much from this book.

It’s changed the way that I view the world. It has changed the way that I view so much – poverty, education, human services, food stamps, and so much more. The segregation and discrimination that these families face every single day would be devastating to anyone. And yet they keep going, doing everything they can to make it in a world that seems to push them down every time they make it up a little bit. This book should be required reading. Everyone should better understand the housing crisis in the US and how our government is not providing the support that is necessary for millions of people in America. I hope this book scares all of us enough to DO SOMETHING about this. To demand that our government do something about this!

This is a horrifying and stunning book that I just cannot recommend more highly. Just a few of the things you’ll learn about by reading this include -

1. How easy it is to evict a tenant

2. How most (90%+) of the poor’s money goes to rent whereas it’s recommended for people to only spend 30% of their income on housing.

3. Imagine trying to go to school and learn when you’re just worried about where you’ll sleep and if you’ll have food on the table.

4. Landlords prefer to not rent to families or a parent with children, adding additional burden on poor single mothers.

I could list 400 nuggets that you’ll read about in this book. I really hope you’ll pick this one up. It’s a must read! I’ll leave you with one more thought from the book …

“Whatever our way out of this mess, one thing is certain. This degree of inequality, this withdrawal of opportunity, this cold denial of basic needs, this endorsement of pointless suffering – by no American value is this situation justified.”

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

Review: The Final Score by Jaci Burton

The Final Score (Play by Play, #13)The Final Score by Jaci Burton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love love love this series! And this is yet another great read. I loved reading Nathan’s story since we’ve ‘known’ him since the very first book and have had glances at him over the books. It was great to see a deep dive into his life and his relationship with Mia. I really loved Mia and getting to learn more about her was really interesting. I love the glimpses into the other members of the families from the series. A great mix of traditional romance and sexiness. I really enjoyed this one and highly recommend it (and the series itself)! You can’t go wrong with these books!

Coming next week on September 12th! Be sure to pick it up!

There is a Jaci Burton Football Prize Pack giveaway that you might be interested in checking out... one winner will recieve all 7 football themed Play by Play novels, two custom koozies and an really cute cooler!

Check it out here - a Rafflecopter giveaway

NOTE: I received this Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Real Thing by Melissa Foster

The Real Thing (Sugar Lake, #1)The Real Thing by Melissa Foster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh boy am I glad that I read this one! This is the first in a new series . I love how Foster mixed up the sweet romance with the heat/sexy and even added in a dash of humor! I really enjoyed this story and watching them come together. I’m a sucker for the second chance love story and this is one that is really well done. I love how Foster made Zane so relatable despite his being a movie star and Willow was a very spunky and interesting character. Them together was magic! Really liked this and definitely recommend!

NOTE: I received this Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Arm Candy by Jessica Lemmon

Arm Candy (Real Love, #2)Arm Candy by Jessica Lemmon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this romance … the setting, the tropes, the characters … all of it was so well done. There is humor here as well as a lot of sexiness! It’s a nice balance of sexy and traditional romance. The relationship between Davis and Grace was really interesting and it developed very well. I think what made this work for me was the characters – I felt compelled to keep reading about them and their journey together. Really enjoyed this one!

NOTE: I received this Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met RishiWhen Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So much fun! What a wonderful romantic comedy wrapped up into a novel format. The word for this book that keeps coming to mind is delightful! The characters are fantastic … love Dimple, love Rishi, love all the side characters and the families. They were all just great. I was laughing out loud at times. The interplay between Dimple and Rishi was wonderful. I loved this one! Very cute and fun! Definitely recommend this one if you are in the mood for a light, fun read!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Review: Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong

Goodbye, VitaminGoodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the most difficult book to describe adequately. It’s about Alzheimer’s and taking care of your family. The main character, Ruth, is struggling … on many counts – in her family life as well as in her romantic life. The book’s tone is what really makes it special … and in some ways difficult to connect with. Ruth tells the story with her very own style … she says things that are interesting and unusual. She throws you off kilter at times. You’ll find yourself laughing, you’ll find yourself perplexed. You will feel things. I really enjoyed reading about her navigating the new waters of her father’s illness. For a book about such a serious subject, it never feels heavy or depressing. There is lightness and hope. There are compelling little bits throughout that really make it special and give it a lightness that I wasn’t expecting. Really good book that I definitely recommend if you can embrace its unusual style!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Review: If The Creek Don't Rise by Leah Weiss

If The Creek Don't  RiseIf The Creek Don't Rise by Leah Weiss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It took me a little while to get into a rhythm with this book. I think that’s partly due to the alternating first person narratives which give you a taste of a variety of the people in this mountain community. And the dialect threw me for a bit. Once I got into a rhythm … WOW, this book! So in my wheelhouse in every way! It’s dark and grungy yet powerful and thoughtful. The sense of place (Appalachia in NC) was where this one really shone. I was amazed at how Leah Weiss was able to make that place come alive in all my senses – the smells, the feels, the sounds! It’s one of those books that are so vivid! The characters are all so well done. They ultimately balance beautifully – the good and the bad. You will love some and hate some. You will see in them people that you care about and people that you’ve despised. They are really where this novel excels. Very gritty, very southern, very complicated. I still can’t quite believe this is a debut novel. I can’t imagine what Leah Weiss will have for us next if this is any indication. Highly recommend this one! There are characters in this book that you will not be able to forget! Such a wonderful book!

NOTE: Thank you to the publisher for providing a free ARC of this book for an honest review.

Review: The Other Girl by Erica Spindler

The Other GirlThe Other Girl by Erica Spindler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this novel. It’s a really strong thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. I did figure out the ‘who done it’ long before the end but I enjoyed the journey so much that it didn’t color my overall enjoyment of the book. I enjoyed how the author told the story by weaving in the present and the past, offering up connections here and there. The flow of the novel was really good and kept me completely engaged throughout. I think the characters were excellent which is one of the things that I most loved about this one. Randi, the main character, is a really compelling character – multi-faceted, honest and reliable yet quirky and flawed. The relationship between her and her partner was solid. I really enjoyed watching that relationship grow and change throughout the book. All in all, this is a great thriller that I recommend if you’re a fan of the genre and enjoy twisty turny thrillers!

NOTE: Thank you to the publisher for providing a free ARC of this book for an honest review.

Review: Before I Knew by Jamie Beck

Before I Knew (Cabot, #1)Before I Knew by Jamie Beck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This romance grabbed me immediately and never let go. I did not want to put it down for anything. I think part of that was that the novel focused on relationships not the sex. It was very thoughtful and went deep into the emotional components of the story. I found that satisfying and a relief. Sometimes, romance can start to feel like they’re all about sex. It was nice to read one focused on a relationship as a whole. Now, there is a lot of angst here by nature of the story itself (loss, grief, suicide, etc.). It’s not necessarily a happy romance although it ultimately gets where you want it to go. This is nitpicky but the main character’s name – Colby – kept throwing me as it felt like a masculine name and yet she’s a woman. Other than that there isn’t really a thing wrong with the story that I can think of. I loved this reading experience and feel like it was a romance with heart and soul. I’m eager to see what’s to come with this series (this is the first in a new series).

NOTE: Thank you to the publisher for providing a free ARC of this book for an honest review.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Review: Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo

Stay with MeStay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had no expectations about this novel going in … I didn’t know what it was about or what to expect. But, I’m so glad that I read this one. It’s the fascinating story of Yejide and Akin who live in Nigeria. It’s about their marriage, their families and how things can unfold in unusual ways. I don’t know a ton about Nigeria so it was so interesting to learn more about the country as well as the culture itself. The customs and traditions that played out in this book were really interesting. This is literary fiction of the best kind – it explores so much ground such as parenting, secrets, grief, betrayal, anger, love, obligation … and more.

Seeing the intimate life of these people in the context of their cultural and familial expectations was simple beautiful. It’s not an easy story – it explores a lot of pain and suffering. Yet, the book didn’t feel dark to me. It felt very meaningful and heartfelt. Very intense yet extremely readable. At times, I was shocked that this is a debut novel. I cannot wait to see what Ayobami Adebayo has in store for us next! Highly recommend this one!

NOTE: Thank you to the publisher for providing a free copy of the book for an honest review!

Review: The Late Show by Michael Connelly

The Late Show (Renée Ballard, #1)The Late Show by Michael Connelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a huge fan of Michael Connelly’s work so I was thrilled to see the start of a new series, particularly one with a female protagonist! And boy did Connelly deliver! This is a great book – interesting, compelling and well written! The character of Renee Ballard was fascinating to me. I loved how different she is from most other fictional detectives in literature – she’s a unique and thoughtful character. I’m going to enjoy getting to know her as the series moves on. I liked that this novel covered several cases (rather than just one as many of these books do) which kept me on my toes as a reader. The story is so well plotted, as you’d expect from Connelly.

Great character development and I love the ‘realness’ of his characters. They feel like real people and often respond in non-traditional ways which I think is always interesting and one of the reasons I keep coming back for more of his novels!

I definitely recommend this for Connelly fans and people new to Connelly. It’s just a solid read. Engaging and compelling! Read this one … you won’t be sorry!

NOTE: Thank you to the publisher for providing a free copy of the book for an honest review!

Review: See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

See What I Have DoneSee What I Have Done by Sarah  Schmidt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As soon as I heard that a novel was coming out that was based on Lizzie Borden, I was IN! Given that I’m fascinated by these sorts of crimes, I was eager to see what she made of the events. This novel is such an interesting take on a murder case that has fascinated people for YEARS! Although it doesn’t take a stand in terms of who committed the crime itself, this book really takes a close look at the Borden household and a family that was volatile and ugly. As a result, the book gives you more information about what could have been happening and how various pieces of the case could be looked at through a variety of lenses.

The story is told from four perspectives which shift throughout the novel – Lizzie, her sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget and a stranger named Benjamin. From each of these perspectives, the reader gets to watch the events of the Borden story as they are unfolding through time. I loved how different each perspective was … yet Schmidt pulls all of the disseminated fragments together in the end in a satisfactory way.

The tone of the novel feels very odd, almost foggy and dreamlike. There is an ominous feel to the writing and the story which are reinforced by the details of each person’s experience. The images were so dreamy and yet vivid for me – for example, the mutton soup that is always on the stove, being eaten by the family each day despite it not being kept cold. Another reviewer called the book a fever dream which I think is the perfect way to capture how the book feels as you read.

The exploration of family and familial relationships through the Borden family was rather disturbing – such a ‘upstanding’ family yet they were extremely dysfunctional and unstable in so many ways. Once you better understand the family dynamics, it’s easy to understand why this family and the murder of the father and stepmother have captivated people for over 100 years.
All in all, this is a deeply unsettling novel that will feel as if it’s haunting you in a way. I kept thinking over the novel for days after finishing, thinking through my own theories of what may have actually taken place. Really great novel – well written, well imagined. Highly recommend this one!

NOTE: Thank you to the publisher for providing a free copy of the book for an honest review!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Review: This Close to Happy: A Reckoning with Depression by Daphne Merkin

This Close to Happy: A Reckoning with DepressionThis Close to Happy: A Reckoning with Depression by Daphne Merkin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really struggled when rating this book. There were parts that I think were a 5 and others that were more of a 2 so I’m splitting the difference and going with a 3. This is a really interesting account of clinical depression. There is a lot of pain expressed in this book. It’s not always easy to read. And as someone who suffers from major depression, I found myself relating to much of this book. It can definitely give the reader some visibility into the air of despair and immobility that is so key to understanding depression. The childhood of Daphne Merkin is also explored in this novel and I found her relationship with her parents and siblings to be fascinating and horrifying. This memoir is definitely raw and unflinching. She does not hesitate to be real and honest about the good and bad of her life with depression. Merkin’s experiences were very different from my own but it was interesting to see her experience through the prism of the financial and social advantages that she had in her life. As for my critique of the novel … at times the book felt pretty self-indulgent. It seemed at times to go to the same places over and over, not covering new ground. And perhaps that’s the point – depression goes to the same places over and over? There were times that the book felt bogged down and I found it to move very slowly. But, overall, I’m glad that I read it. I think it’s a good addition to the depression memoir as it, if nothing else, can remind us that we’re not alone in our struggles.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Review: Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy

Do Not Become AlarmedDo Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The primary focus of this novel is fairly simple – families go on a cruise, go ashore for an adventure and a series of events change everyone’s lives forever. This book really explores some interesting themes – parental power, privilege, the illusionary aspects of safety, and the way events can change relationships in unexpected ways. I think this book really excelled as an exploration of privilege. It is a thriller in many ways and the action keeps the story moving along at a nice pace. There were a few spots where the story got stuck and didn’t move for a bit.

It’s the story behind the story that really interested me. The exploration of privilege was quite well done. The adult characters were frustrating given their narcissistic, obsessive tendencies. They were very difficult to like or relate to. I had a difficult time respecting them. I did enjoy the younger characters. Watching them deal with the various aspects of the events surrounding them was interesting.

I think one of the things that made the book feel a bit off for me is it almost felt like it couldn’t decide what it wanted to be – a thriller, a family drama or a satiric look at privilege. As a result, it felt a little uneven as a whole book. But, it kept my attention and was actually quite a good read so I do recommend it if the synopsis of the book sounds interesting to you!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Review: Capture: Unraveling the Mystery of Mental Suffering by David A. Kessler

Capture: Unraveling the Mystery of Mental SufferingCapture: Unraveling the Mystery of Mental Suffering by David A. Kessler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was really interested in the description of this book – Why do we think, feel and act in the ways we wished we did not. It focuses on the idea of capture which is “a process by which our attention gets hijacked and our brains commandeered by forces outside our control.” There are definitely interesting things explored in this book around the whys of mental illness, addiction, unhappiness, etc. I think my favorite part of the book was the exploration of each topic through the story of a person, many of whom are famous/well known. There was a great deal of information here about David Foster Wallace, for example. Given my curiosity about his life and his work, I found those sections to be very interesting.

I think that the author does a good job writing about the scientific concepts in a way that anyone can understand them. Yet, I was hoping for more than just a description of how we focus on things and how that focus can be obsessive and hurt us. It was case study after case study about how this happens. The concept of capture isn’t something I was unaware of … I was hoping this book would take the idea to the next level. And I feel like it never made it over the ‘here it is hump’. There is a great deal of theory here but it never goes beyond what I see as the obvious.

All in all, I enjoyed this book for what it was but I was hoping it would be of greater scope than it was in reality. Perhaps that’s just a matter of it not meeting my personal expectations but I really think it fell short of what it could have been. I wish there had been more than an introduction of the concept and a series of case studies. I wish there was more in terms of how to break free from capture, techniques or strategies to help, etc. The pacing felt a bit sluggish at times but the case studies is where this book excelled for me. They were so readable and interesting.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Review: Suddenly Engaged by Julia London

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book had a lot of the things I love in a romance – a grumpy guy with a heart of gold, a single mom and a precocious little girl. Yes, please! Based on the description, I was expecting a marriage of convenience trope but that’s not what’s really going on here. It’s a little more nuanced than that. I really loved watching the relationships in this book grow. Dax and Kyra are such an interesting couple. And Dax with Ruby just slays me! They are some of the best parts of the book. I really enjoyed this one and definitely recommend it.

NOTE: Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book to me for an honest review.

Review: Don't Call Me Sweetheart by Codi Gary

Don't Call Me Sweetheart (Something Borrowed #1)Don't Call Me Sweetheart by Codi Gary
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think this story was quite fun. I liked the hero a lot and thought he was everything you’d want in a hero – funny, passionate, charming and relentless. Marley was also an interesting character – although I didn’t love her quite as much as Luke. The side characters were well fleshed out and I did enjoy seeing their stories come alive as well. I was not a fan of the villain in this one – she was too much. I know that was the point but she was so too much that it was almost annoying. The journey of Luke and Marley was a really good read. Very charming and heart-warming!

NOTE: Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book to me for an honest review.

Review: Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

Young Jane YoungYoung Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was really taken with this book that explores something that’s always fascinated me – how a person survives a scandal, especially a woman. This story is about how a young woman makes mistakes and everyone throws all the blame at her. It explores gender bias and how double standards abound in modern life. It makes you think about how to own your mistakes and move beyond them. Ultimately, it has much to say about modern culture that I found really interesting.

This book is very well written, it’s pacing is great and it’s told in an interesting way. There are many perspectives guiding the story along. The narrative will shift in time and place which was interesting to see come together. I really loved the way Zevin incorporated a “Choose Your Adventure” section to the novel which was a fun and smart way to tell part of the story.
This is probably a book that would be labeled ‘women’s fiction’ and that is accurate but I also think it’s so much more. It’s such a smart book that moves fast and was just a nice reading experience. It takes on so much more than it seems to on the surface. There is charm, comedy, family strife, political intrigue, cultural commentary, and more. It’s a really good book and I definitely recommend it!

NOTE: Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book to me for an honest review.

Review: Roadfood by Jane and Michael Stern

RoadfoodRoadfood by Jane Stern
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you travel a lot in America and love to try new restaurants, this is the book for you!It lists the local hot spots and hidden gems across the country! I will definitely be dipping into this as I travel in the future! It was interesting to see what was included for Virginia and Missouri (both places I've lived). All in all, a great reference book for travelers who love to eat! There are no recipes in this one, it's simply a book with names, addresses and descriptions of various restaurants for each state!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Review: Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai

Hate to Want You (Forbidden Hearts, #1)Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me a bit to get into the story here – it felt like it started abruptly or something. But, it quickly came together for me after a slow start. I loved the diversity here – not everyone in the story is white, and the cover actually MATCHES the diversity in the book (which is surprisingly rare these days). This novel felt a bit like a new take on Romeo and Juliet to me which was a nice touch. But, what I loved most about this is how it’s so much more than ‘just a romance’ given the depth of the emotional journey the characters take together. It’s all wrapped together so beautifully with each page offering more and more depth to the characters and their relationships. There are also plenty of the things you want in a romance – great sex, interesting personal dynamics, etc. Yet, it’s the emotional depth of the story that really wow’d me. This is a great romance and I can’t wait to see what’s coming with the future books in the series (this is book 1 in a new series).

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Review: The Wildling Sisters by Eve Chase

The Wildling SistersThe Wildling Sisters by Eve Chase
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book really surprised me. It’s a gothic tale that shifts from the 1950s to present day. It centers on Applecote Manor in the English countryside. There are all the elements of a gothic novel – an estate with a mysterious history, strange rumors, and interesting characters that leave you guessing. Eve Chase’s writing is beautiful and she’s able to so effectively weave a plot of suspense with this novel. The sense of intrigue combined with an air of foreboding just permeates the book, page after page. I didn’t want to put it down. It just kept drawing me deeper and deeper into the narrative. The characters are interesting and thoughtfully written. I enjoyed how the weaving of time was handled. It really effectively helped keep the sense of unease going throughout the novel. The primary focus of the novel is ultimately around family relationships and dynamics. How these things play out and impact everyone so differently. The characters were all well drawn but the way that Chase made Applecote Manor a character in its own right was done brilliantly. It felt as real to me as any of the characters. All in all, a wonderful novel with suspense, mystery and a family saga all rolled into one! Highly recommend this one particularly if you’re a fan of the gothic novel!

NOTE: Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a free ARC of this novel for an honest review.

Review: Drilled by Opal Carew

DrilledDrilled by Opal Carew
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This novella is not for the fainthearted. It’s very steamy. Like extremely steamy. If you prefer sex on the sweeter side of the spectrum, this might not be your cup of tea! The sex here is definitely a bit more ‘porn lit’ than ‘romance lit’. Given that it’s a novella, I think my primary issue with the book is that it was just too short. The book didn’t give the characters much time for development. It felt very forced at first because there was no development between them. It was hard for me to imagine that things developed as they did given how little there is about them as individuals. They just came to feel more cardboard than I’d like to have seen. It’s a really quick read … and very, very HOT. I just wish there were a bit more depth to the characters and the story which would have made this one feel more cohesive.

NOTE: Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a free ARC of this novel for an honest review.

Review: The Nix by Nathan Hill

The NixThe Nix by Nathan Hill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m really struggling with this review. I’m going back and forth between a 3 and a 4 … but I’m settling into a 3. This is such an interesting novel. It reminded me in many ways of a favorite of mine … The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. However, it didn’t quite deliver 5 stars for me like that one did. Please don’t take my rating to mean that I didn’t like this one. I really did … and I totally understand the mass of 4 and 5 star ratings that I’m seeing. I just didn’t quite connect with this novel as I’d hoped.

I love BIG, literary fiction – that is so in my wheelhouse. This book should have been a 5 star for me. And yet, it never surpassed a 4. There were SO many wonderful things in this novel – an exploration of social media, online gaming (so much funny there) and how it’s changed the world we live in. And the exploration of the mother/son relationship was also outstanding. The political exploration was also a stand out for me. These were all the best of the novel for me.

I think where I struggled is with the length … it felt at times as if it just needed more editing. I don’t know that I’d call it self-indulgent but I can understand why that word comes to mind for me when I think of this novel. I think it could have been edited a bit in places. There was so much in this one that I am worried I didn’t always grasp the connective tissue between the pieces and parts as well as I could have if it were pared down slightly by an editor. There were sections that felt very disconnected with others. There were essentially 3 novels within this one book but I didn’t think they flowed together as well as they could have. I kept wondering if I’d have loved this one more if this book had been broken up into multiple novels. I see that a few of my bookish friends wondered the same thing so perhaps I’m on to something! Sometimes the various parts overwhelmed the pure genius in the rest of the book for me.

In many ways, I’m shocked that this is a debut novel … it’s such a complex narrative with so much promise! I’m really interested in seeing where Nathan Hill goes next. If this book is any indication, I would bet that he’ll only get better and better! I do recommend this to those who love to read BIG, literary fiction with a bit of satire. And I hear it’s being made into a TV series made by JJ Abrams, starring Meryl Streep. Now that sounds AMAZING!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Review: Every Little Kiss by Marina Adair

Every Little Kiss (Sequoia Lake, #2)Every Little Kiss by Marina Adair
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the 2nd in a series but I don’t feel like I missed anything by not reading the first. This can definitely be read as a standalone novel.

I really enjoyed this contemporary romance. It’s the first book I’ve read by Marina Adair but I don’t think it will be the last. She has such a way of balancing the emotional wallop of the story with the quirkiness of the characters and the town. It never felt overdone or underdone. It was all just right. This romance centers around loss and its impact on a number of people.

I LOVE Bullseye (the hero’s canine partner) and what a fun part of the story he is for the characters. I thought the journey of healing for both Liv and her son was so well done. The relationship between Liv and her son’s grandmother also really resonated with me – it felt real and honest. All in all, I really enjoyed this story and how it all came together. The community in this novel (Sequoia Lake) is really sweet and I can’t wait to read more about the characters I’ve met in this novel. Definitely recommended!

NOTE: Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a free ARC of this novel for an honest review.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Review: The Sheikh's Surprise Triplets by Leslie North

The Sheikh's Surprise Triplets (Azhar Sheikhs Book 3)The Sheikh's Surprise Triplets by Leslie North
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read the second book in this series recently and was interested in giving the series another chance. And I liked this one but I didn't love it. I think my primary issue with the book was that there was literally no character development. It was like here they are ... oh and now they are in love. It just felt unreal to me. And that made the story itself not work as well as it could have. I also found the middle eastern stuff to be a bit typical ... in that I didn't see anything new or special or interesting about that part. I pretty much knew exactly what was going to happen and there was no surprise waiting for me. All in all, I recommend it if you enjoy this series already. But, I wouldn't start here ... this wasn't quite as good as I'd have hoped.

Review: Breathless by Leigh LaValle

Breathless (Yoga in the City Book 1)Breathless by Leigh LaValle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I LOVE that the setting of this one was a yoga studio with a heroine who was a yoga teacher but not a 'typical' yoga practitioners. I really liked the characters - both the main characters and the side characters. There was some humor and quirkiness which I always appreciate in a romance. This was a very sweet romance that also had some substance around making a home for yourself and facing things head on. The pacing was great and I didn't want to put it down. I couldn't wait to see where the story was going. I definitely recommend this one and I'm looking forward to future novels in the series!

Review: Maybe This Summer by Jennifer Snow

Maybe This Summer (Colorado Ice, #2.5)Maybe This Summer by Jennifer Snow
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a novel within a series but I did not read the earlier books. This is definitely just fine as a stand alone novel. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I especially liked the fact that both the hero and heroine have physical challenges which isn't something you see a whole lot in romance novels. I love how these two characters helped each other overcome their fears. I really liked the characters (especially Owen) and how they developed over the book. Given that this is more of a novella than a full novel, I do wish there was room for more character development. I think that was not quite as good as it could have been if the book had been a bit longer. There was quite a bit of humor along with the a really well done exploration of overcoming obstacles.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Review: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

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

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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Review: The Day of the Duchess by Sarah MacLean

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

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

Monday, July 17, 2017

Review: The Sheikh's Pregnant Fling by Leslie North

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

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

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

Review: Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave

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

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

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

Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager

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

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

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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Review: Catching the Cowgirl by Jennie Marts

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

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

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

Saturday, July 8, 2017

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

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

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

Friday, July 7, 2017

Review: Everything We Left Behind by Kerry Lonsdale

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

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

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

Review: Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale

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

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

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

Review: Chemistry by Weike Wang

ChemistryChemistry by Weike Wang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Review: Forever Yours by Addison Fox

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Review: Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny

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

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

Review: The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo

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

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

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Review: Opening Belle by Maureen Sherry

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

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

Friday, June 23, 2017

Review: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan

Midnight at the Bright Ideas BookstoreMidnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is difficult to categorize ... it has elements of so many things - thriller, suspense and even literary fiction. It has it all and yet its not exactly any of those things. It was dark and depressing and yet hopeful and uplifting ... all at the same time. AND IT TAKES PLACE IN A BOOKSTORE (well, partly in a bookstore)! I really enjoyed this one! Overall, this was quite a clever novel. It's nuanced and layered. Well written and interesting. It's so much more than I expected going in. I honestly cannot believe that it is a debut novel. It's just fantastic! And it's a really effective mystery - I didn't figure everything out long before it was revealed which was nice! It is well plotted and had just the right level of suspense. The characters are well drawn and the story itself is strong. It kept me turning the pages despite being tired. It's all around a good read! Really good book - I highly recommend it!

NOTE: I was provided an ARC from the publisher for an honest review.