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.

Review: The Rules of Half by Jenna Patrick

The Rules of HalfThe Rules of Half by Jenna Patrick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a really complex and interesting novel that really surprised me. I was drawn to it as one of the themes of the novel is mental health which is something I'm always drawn to. This novel centers around a man with bipolar disorder, his sister and his daughter. At the center of this novel is the impact of mental health issues on a person, his/her family, and the larger community. It's about being different and misunderstood. It's about finding the people you need in your life, the people who get you and accept you for who you are. I think it did a beautiful job of showing the reader what bipolar disorder really looks like. As someone who sees it every day as it plays out in a myriad of ways, I felt this book did a good job of showing the reader the good and bad. It felt quite balanced.

The characters are fantastic. They come alive on the page. They are complex and feel very true to life. The book flowed so effectively. I just loved every moment of reading this book. It is a wonderful story about love and taking care of the people you love in the way that's best for them. I think this is a beautifully written, honest and real novel about really interesting people. If that sounds good to you, you should pick this one up. It's one that will make you think about your own perspective on mental illness. It's one that will break your heart and yet leave you with hope! It's a fantastic novel!

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

Review: Storming the Castle by Arianna Hart

Storming the CastleStorming the Castle by Arianna Hart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was quite a sweet romance! I liked it quite a bit and plowed through it! It was so readable and fun! I loved the characters and the whole set up. A rockstar and a small town girl ... yes, please! I love that trope! Faith and Sam were a great couple from the start and I loved watching them come together. I especially like that Faith was such a wonderful mother and a strong person in her own right. Sometimes in romance, the female can seem all 'save me' so I enjoyed that Faith was portrayed as a strong single mom who doesn't need to be saved. I liked the side characters a great deal and think they added that something special to the story. I really enjoyed this sweet romance! I definitely recommend it!

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book for free in exchange for a honest review.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Review: The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

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

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

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

Review: A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

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

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

Review: The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Review: The Wedding Date Bargain by Mira Lyn Kelly

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

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

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

Review: Sleepless in Manhattan by Sarah Morgan

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

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

Sunday, May 28, 2017

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

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

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

Review: Besties by Leah Reena Goren

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

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

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

Saturday, May 27, 2017

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

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

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

Friday, May 26, 2017

Review: Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Review: American War by Omar El Akkad

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Review: It's Always the Husband by Michele Campbell

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

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

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

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

Review: Cheater's Regret by Rachel Van Dyken

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

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

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

Review: The Leavers by Lisa Ko

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

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

Here is an overview of the book, from Goodreads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: The Favor by Blaire Edens

The FavorThe Favor by Blaire Edens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this one. I loved the set up - a guy helps out a woman by showing up as a superhero at her son's birthday party. So cute! The plot flowed very effortlessly. I loved the struggle facing this heroine who needs help but hates to ask for help. I can definitely relate to that so it was nice to see it in a romance. I love how the heroine's child was incorporated into the story. It felt very natural and well done. Overall, I really enjoyed watching their relationship grow. It was a really sweet story. Their connection felt real to me. And I enjoyed the journey of the book. It's a solid romance that most fans of the genre will enjoy!

Release date: 5/22/17

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an ARC copy for an honest review.

Review: The Doctor's Redemption by Victoria James

The Doctor's Redemption (Shadow Creek, Montana Book 3)The Doctor's Redemption by Victoria James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the third book in a series and I have not read any of the previous books. I do plan to go back and read the previous two but I think this read fine as a stand alone.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. The story did seem to get bogged down at some point but it did seem to pick back up. It felt like it took a little longer for the hero and heroine to get together than it should have. It felt a little like it was too much of the whole will they/won't they build up. I really liked the characters - both of them were interesting and complex. They fit together well and I felt that their story felt true to life. The big reveal was so slow to come that, honestly, it felt a bit
anticlimactic. I also felt like the results of the big reveal were underwhelming ... kind of like, well, ok. None of the fall out that I would have anticipated. After all the build up, it just seemed to fall flat.

But, overall, I really enjoyed the story. I liked the characters and how they connected. I enjoyed learning about the secondary characters (some of whom I assume were the subjects of the earlier books in the series. I really want to go back and read the first two books which based on the reviews I've seen on Goodreads were fantastic!

Release date: 5/22/17

This book was provided to me by the publisher for an honest review.

Review: A Country Love Song by Sinclair Jayne

A Country Love Song (Smoky Mountain Knights, #1)A Country Love Song by Sinclair Jayne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this one. It's a very sweet romance - heavy on the sweet, not at all X rated which is kind of nice for a change of pace. A lot of romances are very heavy with the physical stuff but this was more about the relationship and the feelings. It was a little refreshing, to be honest. The town in this novel, Sweet Tea, is a perfect location for a romance like this one. The story itself is a 'girl comes home and has a second chance with her first love'. The story also has a great deal of country music, architecture, and fundraising aspects which were fun and unusual. I really liked the characters - the side characters, in particular, shine in this romance. It makes me wonder if they will show up in future installments of the series and I hope that's true! All in all, I really enjoyed this romance and look forward to the future books. If you like a good second chance romance story with more sweetness than heavy sex, then this is the one for you! It's really good and definitely worth the read!

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

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Review: The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron

The Last NeanderthalThe Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the moment that I heard about this book, I knew that I had to read it. I’m fascinated by the Neanderthals so a fiction story built around them sounded perfect for me! And it was so good. I was worried it would be too focused on the science part of the story but it has such a great balance. The story centers around two women – one who is a member of the last Neanderthal family 40,000 years ago and one who is an archaeologist who is working to excavate new Neanderthal artifacts. The stories of these women just captivated me. The way that Claire Cameron creates the world of the Neanderthal – the detailed aspects of their lives, although mostly fiction, was so well done and captivating to me. I enjoyed seeing what Clair Cameron imagined life to be for these Neanderthals and how they made their way through life.

One of the things that I think stands out most to me is the characterization of motherhood from both women’s perspectives. The experience, the sacrifices, the challenges. I found these views into motherhood to be very realistic and raw. Unflinchingly honest, frank. Motherhood is in no way easy but many novels suggest that it’s all love and rainbows. I really appreciated the realistic perspective that this novel gives to motherhood and it’s overwhelming love and fear.

All in all, I found this to be a very moving novel that gave me a new perspective on humanity and how it changes (and doesn’t) over time. It’s a very interesting look at two very different yet closely connected women. I loved the interesting view into the lives of the Neanderthal population. Overall, this is a fantastic novel that I definitely recommend due to it being very unique and thought provoking. It’s a moving novel that I suspect will stick with me for some time.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with the ARC for an honest review!

Review: Falling for the Hometown Girl by Shelli Stevens

Falling for the Hometown Girl (Marshall Ranch, #2)Falling for the Hometown Girl by Shelli Stevens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was so pleasantly surprised by this romance novel. It’s the second in a series but I hadn’t read the first one and don’t think I missed anything much. I do, however, want to go back and read the first one! This is a really sweet story of a man who returns to his hometown and connects with the girl he couldn’t forget from high school. Nothing earth shattering about the story but I think Shelli Stevens really excelled at the characters and the sense of place in this one. It gave this book that something special that made it stand out to me. I really liked Katie and Hunter. There was something very sweet about their relationship and how their story comes together. I loved learning about the ranch that the story takes place on and the peripheral characters were really well done. All in all, I really liked this one and can’t wait to go back and read the first in the series. Definitely recommend to those of you who love a good romance!

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with the ARC for an honest review!

Review: Burntown by Jennifer McMahon

BurntownBurntown by Jennifer McMahon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Giving a Jennifer McMahon novel a 3 star rating is really hard for me as I’m usually such a fan of her writing. But, this one just didn’t quite work for me. It felt very different in tone from her other novels, perhaps due to the insertion of some fantasy/supernatural aspects to her usual mystery/thriller aspects. But, it just never came together for me. I didn’t connect well with the characters and the story just never captured me in the way her stories usually do. I found that the ending tied things up a bit quickly and too easily for me. I was expecting more given the flights of fancy that I saw glimpses of during the narrative. I’d say this is fairly outside the realm of her previous novels for the most part so if you love her work, this might be a great addition for you. If you’re new to her, I’d suggest starting elsewhere (The Winter People, for example) and coming to this a bit later. I don’t regret reading it, it just didn’t connect with me as much as I’d expected. I do enjoy seeing authors take a risk and trying something new (which I definitely think this is for Jennifer McMahon) but I just wish I’d resonated a bit more with it.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with the ARC for an honest review.

Review: Hot Shot by Kelly Jamieson

Hot Shot (Last Shot, #2)Hot Shot by Kelly Jamieson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second in the Last Shot series. I really loved the first in the series and have been eagerly awaiting the release of this one! I was so curious what Kelly Jamieson would do with the story of Marco and Carrie who I loved from the first book. The thing I enjoyed most about this book was how it explored the characters struggles with confidence and self-esteem in a way that you rarely see in a romance novel. It was interesting to follow each of their journeys towards each other and towards finding peace with their own insecurities. This felt, in many ways, to be more than ‘just a romance’ to me and I really loved seeing a romance that contained a little more substance and was about the character’s journey as individuals as well as a couple. Really strong romance series that I highly recommend!

Note: this book will be released on May 16th so be sure to remember to check it out!

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with the ARC for an honest review.

Review: Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

Anything Is PossibleAnything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This new book is a series of nine short stories that are closely connected to the world Stout created in her novel My Name is Lucy Barton. If you loved that novel, you don’t want to miss this book! These stories expand on the world of My Name is Lucy Barton by expanding on the characters we met in that book, including Lucy herself. As I’m not a fan of short stories most of the time, I was nervous that I wouldn’t love this one but I need not worry. Strout has done what she did with Olive Kitteridge by providing readers with a series of interrelated stories that ultimately read like a novel. The emotional depth of these stories is so wonderful! There is something about an Elizabeth Strout book that just wow’s me! She is able to weave together these stories in a way that felt comprehensive and yet distinctive. Her prose is so impactful yet concise. She brings to live the Midwestern town that these characters inhabit. I found it to be a beautiful exploration of complicated people and relationships. I highly recommend it to any and all! It’s simply wonderful!

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with the ARC for an honest review.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Review: The River at Night by Erica Ferencik

The River at NightThe River at Night by Erica Ferencik
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have really struggled with rating this book. In some ways it was a 4 and in others a 3 but, ultimately, I think it leans more to a 3. The book really has two focuses – one on the women who are on this trip and one once they begin their trip down the river. It’s essentially the story of a vacation gone badly and how it affects each woman. The author did an excellent job of setting the stage – the location and it being remote was quite well described. I felt like the river was a key part of the story.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the characters. I never felt they were truly unpacked which meant I didn’t really understand who they were and how they were friends. The background was very thin. I wish I’d known them more and understood their connections a bit more. I ultimately felt that they were each a cardboard copy of characters – no depth, no realness. I think the story would have been served well with a little more character development.

The adventure itself was effective. The difficulties experienced by those on this trip came alive on the page for me. At times, I felt that I was there in the water with them. But, that wasn’t something that I felt was effective much beyond the ‘big’ accident that causes the entire adventure. I was hoping for more excitement and more of a sense of danger and foreboding. It just felt a bit anti-climactic to me. I was wishing there was more. More danger, more intensity, more fear. It just didn’t pan out for me.

And so this is one that I doubt will stay with me for long. If you have a big interest in rafting adventures, this might be a good fit. But, I’d recommend staying focused on that and not expecting much in terms of character development. I wish it had delivered the high-stakes drama that it promised in the descriptions. It was good but definitely not great!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Review: The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True HermitThe Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. Yes, the story sounds fascinating … and it is. A man lives alone in the woods of Maine for 27 years. The details of what he did and how he did it were definitely fascinating. But, what I loved most was the exploration of solitude and hermits. The exploration of why someone might want to be alone, completely alone. The examination of community is spot on and really gave me so much to think about. As an introvert, I found this entire theme to be fascinating and illuminating.

The story will definitely wow you but the exploration of the why and how really what I think makes the book excel. I couldn’t help but to feel for Christopher Knight – a man searching for contentment, a way to live in the world that felt true to him. I can’t help but wonder what will happen to him and how he’ll find his way in the world. This isn’t a difficult or dense book – it’s a fairly quick read. I definitely think it’s worth the read and recommend it!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Review: History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

History of WolvesHistory of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that stay with you for a while. It haunted me for a few days after I finished it. I think that is partly because the author has done such a great job of invoking a sense of claustrophobia to the narrative. It felt almost suffocating to me. It left me unsettled. The people, the setting, and the atmosphere – it all added up to a distant and remote feeling that I was ultimately left with.

The narrative of this novel moves around quite a bit, as does the story itself. There are several threads that twist around one another throughout the novel – one about a teacher, one about the family across the lake and one about the protagonists’ upbringing. One fault I found was that the threads didn’t come together as well as I’d hoped. They all felt very separated and siloed in some way. I wish they’d come together a bit more cohesively. Although not cohesive, the threads were each really well written and explore that thread exceedingly well. The weaving of time could be confusing at times but it’s worth it to keep pushing through. I think the author did a great job at exploring how the past can haunt a person so deeply.

I’m not telling you much about the storyline as I think many reviewers area giving away too much. I think this is a good one to go into with little knowledge of the plot. I do think this is a beautiful novel, particularly given that it’s a debut. I’m eager to see what Emily Fridlund has in store for us – she’s a great writer who has so much promise.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Review: The Unprotected: A Novel by Kelly Sokol

The Unprotected: A NovelThe Unprotected: A Novel by Kelly Sokol
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn’t know it going in but this book takes place in my hometown of Richmond, VA and that made it all the more special to me. I could envision each and every thing in an entirely different way because I could see the places and things she describes. Yay, Richmond!

This is a very in depth exploration of motherhood – the quest for motherhood as well as the reality of motherhood. I resonated a lot with this story in part due to my own difficulty getting pregnant and my own experience after giving birth to my twins. This book did a great job at describing those experiences in a way that felt real to me as someone who has experienced them myself. It is brutal, raw, and real.

The character, Lara, isn’t particularly easy to like in many ways. She is definitely flawed and we explore every facet of those flaws throughout the book. Although I wouldn’t say that I related to her, I did understand where she was coming from and why she reacts the way she does. I didn’t need to like her to find her story compelling. In many ways, her inner arrogance about everything is what we see unfold as the story moves forward. I mostly felt sad for her, to know how disappointing it can be to finally get your wish and find that it’s nothing like you’d dreamed. There is a real rawness to this character and her experiences.

If you want to read a book that will help you understand what it is to yearn for a baby when your body isn’t cooperating, this book will deliver. If you want to read a book that will give you a realistic view of how life changes when a baby arrives, this book will deliver. If you want a book about how lovely it is to have a baby and how wonderful it all is, this book will disappoint. All in all, I definitely recommend this one. I was surprised by just how real it felt and how much it made me FEEL.

** Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review. **

Review: Intercepting the Chef by Rachel Goodman

Intercepting the Chef (How to Score, #1)Intercepting the Chef by Rachel Goodman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is such a fun book! It is the first book in a new series called “How to Score.” This one had so many of the things I love in a good romance – funny, quirky, and a little sexy (but not too much). The chef and football player main characters – yes, please! I like that the main character, Gwen, is a little sassy and holds back. It gave her a bit of toughness that I liked. The hero, Logan, is the All American quarterback with a heart of gold.

I loved the side characters and how they were integrated into the overall romance. I think Gwen and Logan had great chemistry and I enjoyed seeing them find what they needed in each other. This is a really great start of a series. I can’t wait to read the upcoming books!

** Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.**

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Review: Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson

Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy DaughterRosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson

This is going to be an unusual review for me because this book really hit me hard and I’m going to do a rant/book review for this one … so bear with me -

I was fascinated by this story and of Rosemary's life. I'm ultimately sad for her and how her family made decisions about and for her that were so selfish. I am sad she wasn't born into a family who could appreciate her for who she was instead of needing her to be something particular in order to fit into their social ideal. And the saddest part for me was how much she wanted to please the very people who ultimately hurt her so bad. She just wanted them to love her and I find it so sad that they ultimately seemed to only truly love her if she fit into some stupid ideal they had in their mind. I found that I came to the end feeling more compassion towards her mother and siblings than to her father. He just came across as an ass quite honestly - one who cared about no one but himself and his standing in the world. As long as his children fit in the box he needed them to be in, they were great. If they didn't fit into the box, they were problems to be fixed. SO SAD and INFURIATING for his family.

I don't understand how you can give your child a lobotomy and then just never see her again. I felt like her father was such a coward ... to put her through that and then not even visit her again? Who does that to their child?

Frankly, I feel sorry for ALL the Kennedy children after reading this book. The constant need to be 'on' in the world and fit into your family's expectations. So many secrets and hidden things and not talking about what's actually happening. What an unhealthy way to live your life!

And I have to say that if my parents just hid my sibling and she disappeared from our lives, I'd be MAD. And my family would know I was mad. It feels like they all just abandoned her. Oh she's in the Midwest, OK, hope she's OK. Who treats their sister like that? Who just goes with that? I'm sorry but I'm struggling with how anyone could do that and feel OK about it. Perhaps that was just their family dynamic but I just don't get it.

I've always been a bit fascinated by this family but this book didn't do much to make me care more for them. In fact, I'm sad that no one stood up for Rosemary in this whole mess. Or that it took them so long to do so. I know Eunice and other siblings have made a difference as a result but I can't help but feel like it's a little too late for their sister who suffered so much. And I think that's SAD. Not to say that the changes they've made haven't been great, because of course they have changed so much with their attention and advocacy. But, I can't help but feel bad that so much had to go wrong for Rosemary in order to make those changes a reality. She just deserved better.
I am most sad about the fact that she was OK. She wasn't perfect but she was doing OK. With support, she could have continued to be OK. And instead her father made a decision that changed her life forever because she wasn't OK enough for him. She deserved so much better.

OK, I'm going to stop ranting. I just think that a book that affected me and made me feel so much, deserves a higher rating than the actual writing of the book would usually get from me. So, I'm giving it 4 stars.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Review: The Idea of You by Amanda Prowse

The Idea of YouThe Idea of You by Amanda Prowse
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve really struggled with rating this one. It’s one of those books that I have such mixed feelings about. I really enjoyed some aspects but had difficulty connecting with others. I do think it’s a nice, quick read and a fairly good book for the lover of women’s fiction. But, there were flaws that made it not such a great book for me.

This is the story of a woman who has it all … except the baby she’s desperately wanting. Getting pregnant isn’t as easy as they’d hoped and when her husband’s teen daughter comes to stay with them, it doesn’t go very smoothly since it just reminds her of what she doesn’t have herself … a child. I’ve read a lot ‘want to have a baby but can’t have one’ narratives and I think it’s difficult to do in a new and unique way. So, some of my frustration with the book had to do with it not bringing a lot of newness to this story. I had a horrible time getting pregnant so I could relate to those pieces – that felt very real and raw just as it does in ‘real’ life.

The stepdaughter pieces of the story were interesting and I was hoping they’d bring the narrative to life but I think it fell flat for me. And I think that is because the main character was just difficult to understand and relate to – Lucy is very one-dimensional to me. And I was hoping to relate to her a little if not a lot. But, I just never did. Some of the things that she did or said when dealing with her stepdaughter didn’t feel very real to me. They felt artificial and made me uncomfortable.

I did like how the author brought Lucy’s story (past and today) and her stepdaughter’s stories together by the end. I thought the growth exhibited in that relationship was really quite good and probably my favorite thing about the novel.

All in all, it was a fine book but I don’t think I’ll remember it or think back on it much. I just didn’t connect with it or the characters as I’d expected given the subject matter. If you love women’s fiction or domestic dramas, this might be a book you’d enjoy. Unfortunately, it just didn’t quite work for me.

NOTE: Thank you to the publisher for providing an ARC for my honest review.

Review: Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

Waking Gods (Themis Files #2)Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second book in the Themis Files series. I really enjoyed the first and this follow-up is definitely a great read. If you liked the first, I think you’ll be glad you read the second.

This is a story about human-alien contact. In the previous book, the story was laid out but there were many additional questions left at the end. This book did a great job of filling in some of those blanks as well as giving the reader additional information that makes the overall arc of the story that much better.

This book has a little bit of everything – action, drama, love, and even humor! I love the way the novel is formatted in transcripts and interviews. Such a unique way to tell the story and add to its depth.

I think this will be a hit with all the fans of Sleeping Giants but I encourage those of you who haven’t read the series to consider giving it a chance. I’m not much of a sci-fi fan generally, but this is that and so much more! It really exceeded my expectations and I think it’s just a great series regardless of genre. I highly recommend it! I don’t think you’ll be sorry if you pick it up!

NOTE: Thank you to the publisher for providing an ARC for my honest review.

Review: Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser

Almost Missed YouAlmost Missed You by Jessica Strawser
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The story if simple and engaging – a couple and their young child are on vacation. The husband takes the child into the hotel for a nap while mom enjoys time on the beach. When she returns to the room, they are GONE. Vanished as if they’d never been there. Only her things remain in the room. And thus begins a really interesting story that I found quite captivating!

The book explores this couple’s relationship as well as their own personal journey’s that led to that day. Interspersed with the historical part of the story is what’s happening today – for the wife, the husband and for a friend of the couple. I thought the author did a great job of weaving the today and the past together into a really nicely paced narrative.

Ultimately, this book is about deeply flawed people and what drives them to make the decisions they make. I found that the unfolding of the story was really well done – it kept things interesting and fresh.

This novel is a nice mix of women’s fiction, mystery and psychological thriller (without a ton of thriller). I highly recommend it!

NOTE: Thank you to the publisher for providing an ARC for my honest review.