Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Review: Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed

Gather the DaughtersGather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love dystopian stories. They are some of my favorites. So, I was really looking forward to this one. Given our current political environment and the seemingly daily assault on the rights of women, I think this book does a good job of giving the reader a sense of how quickly and easily the rights of women can be trampled on. I quite liked the world that the author created but much of what has happened and continues to happen in the novel is left very vague. There are lots of hints but nothing is ever completely spelled out. The reader has to make a lot of inferences. As a result, the story could feel frustrating for me. I guess I’m not a big fan of narrative subtlety which permeates every page of this novel. This book really shined when it came to the characters, specifically the girls. Each of them are struggling with a desire for autonomy in a community where women have little control over their lives or bodies. The author did a great job of bringing these girls alive on the page and giving the reader a glimpse into their experiences. I just wish this one had been less subtle and more focused. It just never lived up to my expectation. Many other readers have loved this one so if it sounds interesting to you, I’d recommend you give it a shot.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Review: Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House by Alyssa Mastromonaco

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White HouseWho Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House by Alyssa Mastromonaco
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was such a fun and interesting book. Mastromonaco has such an amazing voice. I really enjoyed learning about her employment path. The behind the scenes look at Obama’s election and presidency was just fascinating! As a political junkie, I learned a lot about the pieces and parts of political life that the general public doesn’t normally get to see. I also think this is a good book for young women to read since there is a lot of great career and life advice weaved into her memoir. Mastromonaco is a very unique personality and I really wish I could meet her one day. I appreciate her honesty in this book – the humor and difficult moments balanced one another quite well. If you have an interest in politics or working in politics, I think this book would be a great one for you!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Review: Once and for All by Sarah Dessen

Once and for AllOnce and for All by Sarah Dessen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It kills me to rate this one so low but it just did not work for me. It had a lot of elements that are right in my wheelhouse but the pieces never came together for me. I liked the whole wedding planning component of the book. That allowed for some interesting moments. I think the book fell apart for me in two ways – the characters and the overall plot. I never connected with the characters – they all felt very cardboard to me. I didn’t like or dislike them – I just didn’t care. I had to force myself to pick this one up sometimes. I didn’t feel like any of the characters were particularly interesting or their relationships compelling. The ‘love’ story never felt like love to me. The characters never really grew in substantial ways. There are essentially two love stories in this book and neither one felt real. And that took away from the emotional resonance of the book. The plot just felt stagnant to me. The entire book I was asking myself what? Where are we going? And it felt very pulled together in a quick and easy bow at the end. The story wasn’t great, the end wasn’t great, all of it was eh. Which I’m sad to say because I’ve enjoyed her books before. I think you’d be better off picking up her novel Saint Anything which I really liked quite a bit.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Review: Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Fierce KingdomFierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The premise of this one is fantastic and the book itself definitely delivers! This is a fast paced novel that just builds and builds and builds. There were times that I found myself tensing up as I read. It kept me on the edge of my seat. A shooting in a zoo and a mom hiding with her child is the basic story but it becomes so much more. I found the cascading emotion of Joan as she tries to protect them to be superbly done. The fear, the worry, the anger and the frustration just pours off the page. The dynamic of an average woman trying to protect herself and her child really resonated with me. I found the setting to be really interesting – to set the events in a zoo is really interesting and gave the author quite a bit of interesting material to work with. I’m not sure that I’ll ever see a zoo in quite the same way again. I really liked this one and I’m glad that I picked it up. Definitely recommend this one!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Review: My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

My Absolute DarlingMy Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really struggled with this review. I’d heard so much praise and buzz around this one so I was eager to read it. I even heard someone say that if you love A Little Life, you’d love this one. Well, I loved that book and I was hopeful that this one would wow me as much as that one did. The premise of this one was definitely something that resonates with me. I never back away from the darkness of human experience in my reading. My problem with this one is that there was so much darkness and yet it never worked for me. It felt scientific in some way rather than real. The violence felt very unreal and cardboard to me. It never really moved me in any way. And I think that is my primary issue with this book – it felt like a book written by a man about the trauma and sexual violence of a woman. It’s not that men can’t write about women’s trauma … it’s just that it’s difficult to do with any nuance. And I don’t think it was done well in this novel. Again, it’s tricky. And I didn’t find it to be successful here. The descriptions of the abuse just felt too unreal to me. They were absent any of the nuance or sensitivity that one would expect. And the character of Turtle (the main female character) had so much potential … and it just felt squandered in some way. She was never fully realized for me. There were just so many misses or head shakes for me as I read - mostly in descriptions as they relate to Turtle. Some of that language just didn’t work for me. In fact, it was annoying and often felt almost ‘icky.’ Perhaps that was the intention but it didn’t do the book any good, in my opinion. Ultimately, I finished the book feeling unsettled but not from the content of the book but from the flaws of the book. I saw where there was potential in this one but it feels as if it was never met. I do think that the author did a good job with the setting – I was well aware of the seclusion of this family from the rest of the world. The author did a good job setting the stage and helping it come alive. Although the descriptiveness got away from the author sometimes, I do think he did a good job of painting a picture and making it come alive. If you want a much more nuanced and sensitive exploration of this sort of writing, I’d recommend A Little Life or All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. There are many people who have LOVED this one so if it sounds like something you’d be interested in, I say try it.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Review: How Not To Fall by Emily Foster

How Not To Fall (The Belhaven Series, #1)How Not To Fall by Emily Foster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love the idea of a feminist, sex-positive, intelligent and nuanced romance. It isn’t something that is always present in the romance genre. My understanding is the author read Fifty Shades of Grey and decided to write this novel in response to the things about that novel which bothered her. And there are similarities between the two books – the heroine is Annie (similar to Ana) and the hero is Charles (similar to Christian). Some are more obvious and some are more overt. But, I do like what the author did with the ideas in FSG and how she turned them around and into one with more nuance. This book is steamy. It’s not for the faint of heart – if you don’t like reading about sex, skip this one. My only critique is that it seemed to be quite complex when it could have been more simple. Almost like the book was taking itself so seriously. I’m not sure how to explain it but it felt weighed down in some way. But, overall, the book was a good read. And it’s, in many ways, a more literary version of FSG. There is more emotional depth here than I saw in FSG. I think it’s worth a read and I do recommend it!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Review: Origin by Dan Brown

Origin (Robert Langdon, #5)Origin by Dan Brown
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It's so hard to review this one for me. I love Dan Brown and the Robert Langdon series as a whole. It's just good, fun fiction! But, this one didn't work for me at all. It felt like it took FOREVER to finish. I kept hoping it would pick up. The only reasons I finished it were that I wanted to give Dan Brown a chance and I was curious how it would end. It felt like there was nothing new and exciting here. It felt repetitive and uninspiring. You hope that a series will continue to build and bring new things to the table, to keep it exciting. But, this one missed the mark for me. I hope this was an anomaly and future books will bring something new to the series.

Review: The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter

The History of White PeopleThe History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this one slowly and dipped in as I could. It’s not a ‘fast’ read. It’s a thoughtful one, one that really challenged me in new ways. It challenged much of the ‘history’ I’ve been taught in schools. It helped me understand the history of race and power. It took what I knew already and built on it. The bottom line is that the concept of race is man-made. The social construction of race is not real. People have tried to categorize each other by race in order to meet their own needs, usually at the detriment of the other races. Painter does a wonderful job of pulling together the economic, scientific, political and sociological components of race in an understandable way. I really enjoyed how Painter tied whiteness to what it means to be an American and how that comes together with religion, politics and patriotism. As I’m working on increasing my own knowledge of social justice, I think this is a really great primer on the construct of race and how it has played out around the world and in the United States. I wouldn’t call this a dry read … in fact, it’s quite readable. If you’re looking to better understand race in today’s world, I think it’s critical to understand its genesis and its history. I think this is a great book to start with if you seek to better understand race and racism. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Review: The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

The Almost SistersThe Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have not always had luck with Joshilyn Jackson’s novels. They don’t tend to resonate with me. And so … I think this one may be my favorite of her novels so far. Although on the surface, this novel is about a woman who feels a bit lost going home to care for her grandmother and figure out her next step, it’s really so much more. It explores family in a really interesting way. It also really effectively explores prejudice in a variety of ways. The family relationships and how the secrets of the family members come together is really interesting. The characters were a stand out for me – they were each so quirky and interesting … much like real people. The exploration of the south is really well done here – the contrast between the ‘southern hospitality’ it’s known for and the underbelly of racism and secrets that often come to the surface. I loved the comic book aspect of this book – it was something new and interesting that I think added that something special to the narrative. The blend of crisis and humor that Jackson inundates the story with really made the reading experience a good one. All in all, I really liked it and recommend it. Even if you’re not a huge fan of her previous work, give this one a try.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little Fires EverywhereLittle Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed Ng’s first novel so I was really excited to dig into her new novel. And this one did not disappoint! Her writing is beautiful, her story just grabbed me and didn’t let go. The weaving together of the elements of the story and the characters was so well done. It can be challenging to make so many pieces and parts come together effectively while also maintaining the in depth exploration of the characters. Ng is able to do this seamlessly in this novel. One of my favorite aspects of this book (and her earlier book) is the exploration of motherhood and daughterhood. That relationship is really difficult to write about in a way that feels real and honest. But, Ng is able to do so just beautifully. I love how the title plays out in the story and how beautifully the story threads weave in and out and come together in the end. I love how Ng is able to capture human behavior in all its complexity in this book. She is able to show the complex emotions that are at play in this particular story. The pulling apart of the ‘perfect’ family and it’s alignment with the other pieces of the story was just beautifully done. Ng’s writing just mesmerized me in places. She really is a master at descriptive writing. The adoption component of the story was interesting to me – and made me think a great deal about nature versus nurture. The push and pull between culture, biology, and socioeconomics was explored so deftly in this novel. The only issue I had with the book was the pacing – it did feel like it took forever to get to the end of the book. It wasn’t a ‘fly by’ sort of novel. It felt quite slow and immersive. It worked for me but I can see how it might not work for some readers. Ultimately, this story explores so many interesting themes – motherhood, art, love, loss, family dynamics, parenting, siblinghood, and more. Pulling it together must have been challenging but Ng did it … and did it expertly! Highly recommend this one … it’s really worth the praise that I’m seeing it get in the book world.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Review: Totally His by Erin Nicholas

Totally His (Opposites Attract #3)Totally His by Erin Nicholas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn’t expect to enjoy this one quite as much as I did. A cop and a theater owner … yes, please! I love how they met – so perfect given their characters. Sophie and Finn are such an interesting mix and their journey is quite interesting and compelling. The story was more complex than some of the romances that I have read which was a nice change of pace. It was a quick but satisfying read. I love the whole finding a family theme of the book. I loved how Sophie was a bit damaged and yet still found her place in the world. I love how sassy and real Sophie felt. And it’s the little things – trying to meditate and then deciding to box to metal music. That so sums her up! She’s an interesting character to follow. Really good story. I’m going to go back and read the earlier novels in this series. It definitely read like a stand-alone but I can’t wait to go back and see how things played out before this one. Really solid romance!

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

Review: Back in the Game by Erin Kern

Back in the Game (Champion Valley, #2)Back in the Game by Erin Kern
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one really surprised me! It wasn’t so much a sexy book as a true exploration of a relationship. I kind of liked that after a lot of racy romances recently. It was nice to focus on the relationship instead of the physical stuff. I really liked Stella and Brandon. They had great chemistry and the dialog between the two was fantastic! They both have baggage and history. Most of the book involves exploring that baggage and trying to move through it and into what they want for themselves. And it was refreshing, to be honest. I really enjoyed that Brandon was a single dad and his relationship with his son was really engaging. This one was more heartwarming than racy which was fine by me. I really enjoyed it! I haven’t read any of this author’s work until this one but I’ll definitely be seeking out more of her work!

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

Review: Slap Shot by Kelly Jamieson

Slap Shot (Aces Hockey #5)Slap Shot by Kelly Jamieson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this story of a pro hockey player still mourning the death of his wife and trying to get himself back in the rink after taking time off to mourn. Max was an interesting character with quite a bit of depth. I really liked Kendra and how things unfolded for them. She’s such a confident and smart character. I really liked that she goes her own way and has made her own path. She’s inspiring in a lot of ways! She was my favorite heroine in a long time. Their relationship was interesting especially since the entire book was told from Max’s point of view. That was risky but I think the risk paid off. Kendra’s character was so well done that I didn’t feel the need to be in her head. Yet, being in Max’s head was nice since much of the journey of the book was for him. There is grief in this one so it’s got some of that but I didn’t feel like the book was a bummer in any way. It was really about the journey through grief and making a new life for yourself after the loss of another. Definitely recommend – Kendra alone is worth reading this one! Have I mentioned that she’s a great character (lol)? Also, I have read some of this author’s other work, specifically the Last Shot series, and I loved it just as much! I plan to go back and read some of her other work as I think she’s a fantastic writer!

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

Review: Closer to You by Jill Sanders

Closer to You (Haven, Montana #1)Closer to You by Jill Sanders
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me a little while to get into this one and connect to the characters but once I did, it was worth the wait! The whole people from different worlds trope is always interesting and I think this one was done particularly well. I loved how the book explored Kristen’s journey into finding herself and what she really wants. That is such a huge part of anyone’s life and it was nice to see it play out in this book. I liked the mystery aspect of this book and how that played out. It didn’t interfere with the romance and it added a nice vibe. I can’t wait to see what the future brings for this series. I’m assuming it’s going to explore the rest of the McGowan brothers and their own love stories! Definitely recommend this one!

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

Review: Tell Me by Abigail Strom

Tell MeTell Me by Abigail Strom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Any book with a heroine who owns a bookstore will get my attention. And I’m so glad I read this one. I loved the dynamic of the characters as they came together. The whole relationship with Caleb was handled well. The pacing was good. I thought the fact that the character of the sister is so integral to the plot was unique and interesting. Both Jane and Caleb were well rounded characters – with flaws and complexities. I love that they didn’t feel like cardboard characters you sometimes see in romances. It gave the author quite a bit to play with which made the book much stronger. I loved watching Jane come into her own AND find love! Really good romance that I definitely recommend!

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

Review: Running into Love by Aurora Rose Reynolds

Running into Love (Fluke My Life, #1)Running into Love by Aurora Rose Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really loved this book and I can’t wait to read more. I loved the characters – especially Levi. He’s perfection. Great pacing, strong story. It came together really well for me. I’d say this one is sexy but sweet as well as lighthearted and fun! I loved the side characters (mostly their families) & they were fantastic. If you like a romance with some humor, this may be just what you’re looking for!

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

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Review: Branded with a Kiss by Paula Altenburg

Branded with a KissBranded with a Kiss by Paula Altenburg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was my first Paula Altenburg book and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I love the whole ‘player into hero’ trope so this was right up my alley. I loved how relatable Patterson was which really surprised me. It typically takes me time to like the male player character but I liked Patterson immediately. And Alayna is a great character as well – it took me awhile to warm up to her but ultimately she was really fleshed out. I liked the glimpses into running a cattle ranch. The story felt real as did the relationship between the couple. Really enjoyed this one and look forward to reading more of Paula Altenburg’s work!

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

Review: The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall

The Best Kind of PeopleThe Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was concerned that this book was just another book treading ground that has been tread before in literary fiction. But, I felt this one did a really good job exploring something very timely – an accusation and its impact to the family members of the accused as well as the community in which they live. In this particular story, a heroic teacher who everyone ‘loves’ is accused of sexual impropriety by students and the fall out is the primary focus of the novel. How does his family deal with how the community reacts to the accusation? How does the community treat the family? How do his wife and children cope with loving this man and yet wrestling with his potential guilt? Ultimately, this is about rape culture and the impact these situations have to the individuals and communities in which they take place. I like that the story felt complete by the end of the novel and yet it didn’t get all tied up in a pretty bow. There is so much here to think about in terms of how we treat others and how rape culture affects our decisions when these types of situations take place. I really think this is one worth reading, especially if you’re interested in the intersection of rape culture and community life.

NOTE: The publisher provided me with an ARC of this novel for an honest review.

Review: Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Sing, Unburied, SingSing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m really worried that I’m not going to be able to do this book justice with a review. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in a while. This is a novel about the south, about parenting, about racism, about growing up, about ghosts – especially those inside of us, and it’s about heartache. It’s all these things and more. It’s raw and unflinching. It’s gritty and atmospheric. It’s so beautifully written – Jesmyn Ward is one of my favorite writers and this is some of the best of her work! If you’re looking for something light and breezy, steer clear. If you’re looking for something that will push you to think a little harder and care a little more, then pick this one up. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the place and characters that Jesmyn Ward explores in this book. This book is a punch in the gut but the best punch in the gut you can have. The characters come alive – there is an intimacy in the way that Ward writes her characters. I felt as if I knew them, lived with them, felt them. Jojo will stay with me for some time. A child forced to become a man and care for himself and his sister. A child who is drowning in parental neglect and abuse yet finds solace with his grandparents who love him. The touches of magical realism (specifically, ghosts) were so beautifully done. Each of these ghosts tell a story that will break your heart. The exploration of drugs, violence and racism and its impact on one family is superb. This one spoke to me. I’d like to go back and read it again because it was so beautiful that I just know that I’ve missed some of it in just one reading. It’s an intense read that has many pieces that are painful to read. But, that darkness and pain is worth it given how engrossing it is. It’s a beautifully told story that you won’t forget. Jesmyn Ward is an amazing storyteller. You can’t go wrong with this one … it’s just magnificent!

NOTE: The publisher provided me with an ARC of this novel for an honest review.

Review: Powerless by Paris Hansen

Powerless (Finding Love Book 2)Powerless by Paris Hansen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is such an interesting romance. The heroine is such a strong person and I found her character so fascinating. And the hero … wow, what a guy! He rocks. Their connection is really wonderful. The focus on living a life in the public eye was really interesting and I like how the ending came together. There was nothing predictable or boring about this one for me. I really enjoyed it all.

NOTE: The publisher provided me with an ARC of this novel for an honest review.

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!