Hunger by Roxane Gay
(Harper Collins – June 13, 2017)
From the bestselling author of Bad Feminist: a searingly honest memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself
“I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.”
In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her own past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.
With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.
Raw, biting and honest, this memoir will make you squirm and examine pretty much every aspect of modern society. It’s about body image and body size, rape and trauma, family and friendships, sex and sexuality, fitting in and fitting a body into the physical world. It’s about eating and eating disorders, kindness and hatred, race and gender, obscurity and fame, and most of all, hunger. Hunger for love and comfort and acceptance. Gay dissects her soul for us and spreads it out on these pages, an act of vulnerability most of us, and certainly most writers, would never dream of attempting.
This isn’t an easy read, but reading it will make you a better person. Highly recommend.
I received a digital ARC of this book for review – all opinions are my own.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
(Atria – June 13, 2017)
From Taylor Jenkins Reid comes an unforgettable and sweeping novel about one classic film actress’s relentless rise to the top—the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.
Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.
Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
Filled with emotional insight and written with Reid’s signature talent, this is a fascinating journey through the splendor of Old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it takes—to face the truth.
I could not put this down – devoured it in one evening! Glamour and glitz and the cutthroat business of film…….combined with a much, much more complex and nuanced plot than I ever anticipated based on TJR’s other work and the official book description. I loved the way the book went back and forth between Angelique and Evelyn, and I really admire Jenkins’ ability to write Evelyn’s character as unapologetically selfish, but also one of the most brazenly tough businesswomen I have ever read about. (Note to other reviewers: when you say you don’t like Evelyn, do you realize that’s how you are SUPPOSED to feel? Evelyn says it herself a million times – she knows who she is. The author isn’t hiding anything or trying to trick you! Evelyn’s character is quality writing.) And magically, although I didn’t always like Evelyn, I admired her guts and ability to get pretty much anything she ever wanted. Except the one thing………no spoilers, just a major teaser! I love the premise and importance of this story, and the various issues discussed within.
If you are looking for a lush and complex and immensely addicting saga, this is for you. If you are looking for a conventional girl meets boy love story (times 7!), you will either be pleasantly surprised or sadly disappointed. Because I want all readers to have a heart like mine, I pray that you will be pleasantly surprised. I adored this story, and the twists and turns really did keep me guessing right up until the end.
Thank you to Edelweiss for the digital ARC for review – all opinions are my own.
The Salt House by Lisa Duffy
(Touchstone – June 13, 2017)
In the tradition of Jodi Picoult and Lisa Genova, this gorgeously written, heartbreaking, yet hopeful debut set during a Maine summer traces the lives of a young family in the aftermath of tragedy.
In the coastal town of Alden, Maine, Hope and Jack Kelly have settled down to a life of wedded bliss. They have a beautiful family, a growing lobster business, and the Salt House—the dilapidated oceanfront cottage they’re renovating into their dream home. But tragedy strikes when their young daughter doesn’t wake up from her afternoon nap, taking her last breath without making a sound.
A year later, each member of the Kelly family navigates the world on their own private island of grief. Hope spends hours staring at her daughter’s ashes, unable to let go. Jack works to the point of exhaustion in an attempt to avoid his crumbling marriage. Their daughters, Jess and Kat, struggle to come to terms with the loss of their younger sister while watching their parents fall apart.
When Jack’s old rival, Ryland Finn, threatens his fishing territory, he ignites emotions that propel the Kelly family toward circumstances that will either tear them apart—or be the path to their family’s future.
Told in alternating voices, The Salt House is a layered, emotional portrait of marriage, family, friendship, and the complex intersections of love, grief, and hope.
Heartbreaking and hopeful, The Salt House drew me in and wouldn’t let me stop reading until the very last word. The first half of the book had me aching with sadness for the Kelly’s family horrific loss of their baby daughter (I had to take a short break from reading to process it), and the second half had me combining that sadness with awe for the perseverance and determination of this family in their quest to survive their grief.
The multiple narrators (all 4 members of the family had their own alternating chapters, both parents as well as their 8-year-old and 16-year-old daughters) fully immerse readers into the family’s grief and attempts to cope, and give the story a richness that would not be possible if the story were told from only one perspective. The daughters, Jess and Kat, are refreshingly honest in their youthful take on the past year, while the parents, Hope and Jack, are achingly raw in their inability to return to life as normal.
Duffy’s descriptions of the coastal Maine fishing town are absolutely beautiful, and reinforce my desires to visit this area of the US at some point in the not too distant future.
This book will stay with me for a long time, and I will recommend it to everyone I know. However, if you are a parent of a baby or young toddler, be aware that it made me eternally grateful that my children are past the age of Maddie in the story, as I don’t know if I would be able to put my little one down for a nap again after reading this book. Grief is hard to read when you can’t imagine yourself exactly in the shoes of the grieving, but almost unbearable when you can.
Thank you so much to the author for providing me with a finished copy of this book for review – all opinions are my own.
The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand
(Little Brown – June 13, 2017)
Nantucket is only two and a half hours away from Martha’s Vineyard by ferry. But the two islands might as well be worlds apart for a set of identical twin sisters who have been at odds for years. When a family crisis forces them to band together–or at least appear to–the twins slowly come to realize that the special bond that they share is more important than the sibling rivalry that’s driven them apart for the better part of their lives. A touching depiction of all the pleasures and annoyances of the sibling relationship, THE IDENTICALS proves once and for all that just because twins look exactly the same doesn’t mean they’re anything alike.
My absolute favorite Hilderbrand novel yet! And that’s saying a lot, since I have loved every one of her books. The Identicals lets us immerse ourselves in the rarified worlds of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket while becoming completely enthralled with the different worlds of Tabitha and and Harper. The character development is perfection and the setting descriptions are sumptuous. Summer and beaches, love and heartbreak, motherhood and sisterhood ~ this book has it all in an excellently written package.
One of my favorite books of summer 2017 so far!
Thanks to Net Galley for the digital ARC for review – all opinions are my own.
The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne
(Putnam – June 13, 2017)
‘I was born two years into my mother’s captivity. She was three weeks shy of seventeen. If I had known then what I do now, things would have been a lot different. I wouldn’t have adored my father.’
When notorious child abductor – known as the Marsh King – escapes from a maximum security prison, Helena immediately suspects that she and her two young daughters are in danger.
No one, not even her husband, knows the truth about Helena’s past: they don’t know that she was born into captivity, that she had no contact with the outside world before the age of twelve – or that her father raised her to be a killer.
And they don’t know that the Marsh King can survive and hunt in the wilderness better than anyone… except, perhaps his own daughter.
THIS BOOK!!! I have never read a suspense story with such an original and absolutely chilling premise – this one will stay with me for a long, long time. I loved that it was a quieter suspense read without the typical suburban-husband-kills-wife or diabolical serial killer slashing through bodies left and right. I’m really struggling to describe how this book impacted me and how much I recommend it to suspense and family-drama readers, and readers (like my husband) who enjoy hunting/fishing/outdoors books……..this short review will have to suffice, though!
A few thoughts on the book beyond my general rave:
1) I was absolutely haunted by Helena’s feelings toward her despicable father throughout the book, but also understand just how realistic those feelings may be for a child/adult in her situation – raised in captivity and taught to hate her mother. I just can’t stop thinking about this part of the story!
2) The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a fascinating and perfect setting for this book – I’m familiar with the UP from living within driving distance while growing up, but the stark isolation described in this book goes beyond anything I ever have or want to experience there.
3) The alternating now-and-then style is captivating and keeps you reading, all the while making you shake your head at how???? OMG!!!
Thanks to both Net Galley and Edelweiss for the digital ARC of this title – all opinions are my own.
Kristoff is a young apprentice to a master Jewish stamp engraver. When his teacher disappears during Kristallnacht, Kristoff is forced to engrave stamps for the Germans, and simultaneously works alongside Elena, his beloved teacher’s fiery daughter, and with the Austrian resistance to send underground messages and forge papers. As he falls for Elena amidst the brutal chaos of war, Kristoff must find a way to save her, and himself.
Los Angeles, 1989.
Katie Nelson is going through a divorce and while cleaning out her house and life in the aftermath, she comes across the stamp collection of her father, who recently went into a nursing home. When an appraiser, Benjamin, discovers an unusual World War II-era Austrian stamp placed on an old love letter as he goes through her dad’s collection, Katie and Benjamin are sent on a journey together that will uncover a story of passion and tragedy spanning decades and continents, behind the just fallen Berlin Wall.
For fans of European WWII fiction, this is a unique and compelling addition to the genre. I really enjoyed the fact that the back-and-forth between wartime Austria and present day Los Angeles wasn’t back to actual present day, but to 1989-1991 and includes the reunification of Germany and the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. This along with the stamp engraving and collecting storyline were a major factor in my rating of this book. These are both very unique in this genre, which can start to feel saturated for readers (like me!) who read a lot of historical fiction. The trips to England and East Germany provided some additional texture to the setting and storyline. I also loved the history of the edelweiss flower interwoven in the story, and appreciated the author’s note in the back describing the factual basis for the book.
Something that many readers will enjoy is that this is NOT the typical 450-page tome, so it will appeal to many book clubs and more casual readers. Personally, I wish several of the story’s aspects had been expanded upon more so I could understand more about Katie’s failed marriage and Benjamin’s back story, as well as more of what happened between wartime and 1989-1991 for Elena and her sister. However, that would turn the book into a 600-page doorstop, and probably wouldn’t appeal to most readers!
Recommended for fans of historical fiction and WWII stories, with the caveat that this may not be as deep as you have seen in other recent releases in the genre.
Thanks to Edelweiss for the digital ARC for review – all opinions are my own.
Marianne is stuck in a loveless, unhappy marriage. After forty-one years, she has reached her limit, and one evening in Paris she decides to take action. Following a dramatic moment on the banks of the Seine, Marianne leaves her life behind and sets out for the coast of Brittany, also known as the end of the world.
Here she meets a cast of colorful and unforgettable locals who surprise her with their warm welcome, and the natural ease they all seem to have, taking pleasure in life s small moments. And, as the parts of herself she had long forgotten return to her in this new world, Marianne learns it s never too late to begin the search for what life should have been all along.
This is a magical tale of a woman finding herself (finally!) at age 60, the French seaside, gorgeous food and setting, and most importantly, the discovery of the importance of a life well-lived. If you like quiet and description-rich stories with interwoven magic, this one is for you. Magic isn’t especially my thing, which is why I landed at 3/5 for this book.
I received a digital ARC of this title for review – all opinions are my own.
The Map That Leads to You by JP Monninger
(St. Martin’s Press – June 13, 2017)
A romantic, vivid novel that takes place in the tender time of a young woman’s life: Heather has graduated from college and is traveling around Europe with her two best friends. She’s left school responsibility behind and adult responsibility is looming, but this is her one, ONE last summer to be free. Heather doesn’t expect to even meet Jack, let alone fall in love with him. Jack is an enigmatic Vermonter a few years older than she is, who is following his grandfather’s journal to various cities around Europe. But in the same way that forces are bringing Jack and Heather together, life and duty are pushing them apart. And Jack has a secret that is going to change absolutely everything.
I inhaled this book in one evening ~ yup, one of THOSE books. Dreamily romantic and with the most lustworthy European settings imaginable, this romance sucks you in and makes you wish for your very own post-college European tour and your very own Jack……because no matter how happily coupled you are now, a love like Jack is one of daydreams and romance novels. This story reads almost like a YA novel although the characters are all in their 20s, and the banter is absolute perfection. Oh, and I adored the constant literary references. If you like dreamy and frothy and you lust over Europe, this is a must-read for you!
I read a friend’s ARC of this title that she received from the publisher – all opinions are my own.
You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir by Sherman Alexie
(Little Brown – June 13, 2017)
A searing, deeply moving memoir about family, love, and loss from the critically acclaimed, bestselling National Book Award winner.
When his mother passed away at the age of 78, Sherman Alexie responded the only way he knew how: he wrote. The result is this stunning memoir. Featuring 78 poems, 78 essays and intimate family photographs, Alexie shares raw, angry, funny, profane, tender memories of a childhood few can imagine–growing up dirt-poor on an Indian reservation, one of four children raised by alcoholic parents. Throughout, a portrait emerges of his mother as a beautiful, mercurial, abusive, intelligent, complicated woman. You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me is a powerful account of a complicated relationship, an unflinching and unforgettable remembrance.
This book absolutely blew me away. I’d give it 10 stars if Goodreads would let me! I laughed and I cried and I read this book in a day. Poetry and essays combined into one of the most heartfelt memoirs (and accounts of the travesties committed against American Indian tribes) I have ever read. If you don’t know who Sherman Alexie is, you need to know him – look him up and read this book. If you already know his work, this will cement your appreciation for him. His life story is heartbreaking and his grief over the loss of his mother can almost be physically felt through reading. Absolutely, positively required reading for every adult.
School librarian note: If you teach Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, or read Thunder Boy aloud, you can now reference this memoir for your students and describe how much of the novel is autobiographical. This memoir is NOT appropriate to use in the classroom, however.
I received a digital ARC of this title for review – all opinions are my own.
Want to know how I decide on a rating for a book? Check out my post Rating With Heart! You can find me on Goodreads for ALL of the middle grade, YA and adult books I read. All of those, plus my picture book reviews, are on my Instagram ~ would love to see you there as well!