Part 1 of my adult reads for the month – settle in and get ready to meet some new books!
These are listed in order of date finished……..as always, there is a disclosure telling the source of each book and as always, no affiliate links.
The Leavers by Lisa Ko
(Algonquin – May 2, 2017)
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.
Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging. It’s the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away–and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of her past.
This powerful debut is the winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for fiction, awarded by Barbara Kingsolver for a novel that addresses issues of social justice.
This book is 2nd in line for my favorite book of 2017, right behind Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. The Leavers is heartbreaking, haunting and hopeful ~ the H trifecta of quality literary fiction, in my opinion. It is a story of language, immigration, family, love, addiction, and finding your place in the world. The commentary on being a US-born child of a Chinese immigrant, on being an adopted Chinese child of a white couple, and of being unsure of what home means is incredibly powerful and timely. Required reading for adults and recommended for mature high school students.
I received a digital ARC for review – all opinions are my own.
The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo
(G.P. Putnam’s Sons – May 9th 2017)
He was the first person to inspire her, to move her, to truly understand her. Was he meant to be the last?
Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story—their story—at the very beginning.
Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.
Let’s start positive! I could relate so closely to the storyline involving experiencing 9/11 as a college student being a pivotal moment throughout this book, as I was also in college on that horrible day and remember it from that perspective. I loved the style of writing of this book, with Lucy narrating to Gabe – it made for a really fast read and one that wasn’t weighed down with a lot of extraneous dialogue or description. I liked the love story and themes of lost opportunities and second chances. All of that made this book an enjoyable and riveting read as I kept reading to find out how and why Lucy was telling Gabe the story.
Hype can help a book, and hype can kill a book for me. In this case, it definitely killed it. If I hadn’t read the blurb about the “unforgettable and shocking ending” I wouldn’t have been dying to find out the massive shocker, which I was expecting to be along the lines of Behind Her Eyes by Sara Pinsborough or Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson, both of which completely blew my mind. If I hadn’t been waiting for that, possibly I would be rating this a 4 instead of a 3.5. So, for all my reader friends, don’t expect a shocking end! You’ll like the book way better going into it without that expectation.
I received galleys of this from NetGalley, Edelweiss and First to Read in exchange for an honest review.
Widow of Wall Street by Randy Susan Meyers
(Atria Books – April 11, 2017)
What’s real in a marriage built on sand and how do you abandon a man you’ve loved since the age of fifteen?
Phoebe sees the fire in Jake Pierce’s belly from the moment they meet as teenagers in Brooklyn. Eventually he creates a financial dynasty and she trusts him without hesitation—unaware his hunger for success hides a dark talent for deception.
When Phoebe learns—along with the rest of the world—that her husband’s triumphs are the result of an elaborate Ponzi scheme her world unravels. Lies underpin her life and marriage. As Jake’s crime is uncovered, the world obsesses about Phoebe. Did she know her life was fabricated by fraud? Did she partner with her husband in hustling billions from pensioners, charities, and CEOs? Was she his accomplice in stealing from their family and neighbors?
Debate rages as to whether love and loyalty blinded her to his crimes or if she chose to live in denial. While Jake is trapped in the web of his own deceit, Phoebe is faced with an unbearable choice. Her children refuse to see her if she remains at their father’s side, but abandoning Jake, a man she’s known since childhood, feels cruel and impossible.
2 stars for the story, 1 star for the amazing cover art, since that’s what pushed me to use one of my Audible credits on this book (which I was hoping would be a kind of wife’s fictional retelling of The Wolf of Wall Street with all of the drama that story entailed). I know I am in the minority in my opinion of this book, so please take that into account. I struggled so much to connect with a single character in this book (the closest I could come is Jake and Phoebe’s daughter Kate) and I honestly think I might just not have enough money to have an iota of sympathy for Jake OR Phoebe in this story.
It was a depressing book for me, with no humor to cut the bitterness of the story or cultural significance to merit such a dire retelling since this story in no way helped me understand why evils on Wall Street were perpetrated beyond the evilness and callousness of mankind. Perhaps that was the point? If so, I’m now convinced of this. As for the “for better or worse” part of marriage storyline, another thing I simply couldn’t understand.
I will definitely try another title from this author in the future to get another view of her work, and hats off to the cover artist for selling me on this book!
I used one of my paid Audible credits for this audiobook.
No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal
(Picador – May 2, 2017)
In a suburb outside Cleveland, a community of Indian Americans has settled into lives that straddle the divide between Eastern and Western cultures. For some, America is a bewildering and alienating place where coworkers can’t pronounce your name but will eagerly repeat the Sanskrit phrases from their yoga class. Harit, a lonely Indian immigrant in his midforties, lives with his mother who can no longer function after the death of Harit’s sister, Swati. In a misguided attempt to keep both himself and his mother sane, Harit has taken to dressing up in a sari every night to pass himself off as his sister. Meanwhile, Ranjana, also an Indian immigrant in her midforties, has just seen her only child, Prashant, off to college. Worried that her husband has begun an affair, she seeks solace by writing paranormal romances in secret. When Harit and Ranjana’s paths cross, they begin a strange yet necessary friendship that brings to light their own passions and fears.
A slow, thoughtful, wryly amusing look at America through the eyes of Indian immigrants. This is not a page-turner, and is full of long descriptions and ruminating on the strangeness of living in a foreign land, sexuality, language, friendship and marriage. There is a multi-faceted storyline about gay relationships and their place in Indian culture, as well as Indian marriages in general. I loved the whole writing/author plotline and just adored the way this book ended.
I received a digital ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.
Eden by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg
(She Writes Press – May 2, 2017)
Becca Meister Fitzpatrick–wife, mother, grandmother, and pillar of the community–is the dutiful steward of her family’s iconic summer tradition . . . until she discovers her recently deceased husband squandered their nest egg. As she struggles to accept that this is likely her last season in Long Harbor, Becca is inspired by her granddaughter’s boldness in the face of impending single-motherhood, and summons the courage to reveal a secret she was forced to bury long ago: the existence of a daughter she gave up fifty years ago. The question now is how her other daughter, Rachel–with whom Becca has always had a strained relationship–will react.
Eden is the account of the days leading up to the Fourth of July weekend, as Becca prepares to disclose her secret and her son and brothers conspire to put the estate on the market, interwoven with the century-old history of Becca’s family–her parents’ beginnings and ascent into affluence, and her mother’s own secret struggles in the grand home her father named “Eden.”
Blasberg expertly alternates a sweeping lifelong tale of a man and his dream of a beach home with the events of a summer almost a century later. From almost the very first page, this book drew me in and left me desperately wanting to live at Eden or at the very least, visit for a weekend. This book is a captivating and gorgeous story of generations of family and the intricacies of those relationships. It’s a love story to a family property and the beach community it inhabits, but most of all, it is a story of mothers and daughters.
This is an astounding debut and a must-have book for every beach bag this summer. I can’t wait to read Blasberg’s future work.
Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this book for review.
Making It Right (Most Likely To #3) by Catherine Bybee
(Montlake Romance – May 9, 2017)
Some kids inherit a family business; Jo Ward inherited a badge. Once voted Most Likely to End Up in Jail, the town wild child has become sheriff—hell-bent on uncovering the truth about her father’s mysterious death. Life is quiet in rustic River Bend, but Jo longs for something beyond her small hometown and the painful memories it holds. All that keeps her sane is the support of her best friends, Melanie and Zoe.
But when Jo signs up for an expert law enforcement training seminar, she meets Gill Clausen, whose haunting eyes and dangerously sexy vibe just may challenge her single-minded focus. Commitment-phobic Jo can’t deny her attraction to the arrogant federal agent, and when odd things start happening around River Bend and danger surrounds her, she realizes she’ll need his help to discover who’s out to remove her from River Bend…permanently.
As Jo and Gill work together, it’s clear they make a great team. But can Jo loosen her grip on the past enough to let love in and reach for the future?
I just love Catherine Bybee’s romance series – they are the perfect mix of happy and suspenseful and always feature really strong women. The women may appreciate (and REALLY enjoy) men alongside them, but they are strong in their own right. The men are always very caring and helpful and definitely 21st century husband material 😉 This is the 3rd book in the Most Likely To series, and I’ve really enjoyed all of them. I also love the Not Quite series and Weekday Bride series by Bybee ~ they are the perfect antidote to the grittier adult books and the vast amounts of YA and middle grade that I read.
I pre-ordered the Kindle version of this book from Amazon.