Book Giveaway: The Good Widow


ANOTHER book giveaway this week! (Did you catch the one on Saturday? It runs through June 2nd!)
I am teaming up with a group of my favorite bookstagram friends to run a giveaway for the new suspense novel out on June 1st from Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke ~ The Good Widow

Here is the description and my review of this book, followed by the giveaway information – I hope you join us on Instagram for the contest!

The Good Widow by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke
(Lake Union Publishing – June 1, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

Elementary school teacher Jacqueline “Jacks” Morales’s marriage was far from perfect, but even in its ups and downs it was predictable, familiar. Or at least she thought it was…until two police officers showed up at her door with devastating news. Her husband of eight years, the one who should have been on a business trip to Kansas, had suffered a fatal car accident in Hawaii. And he wasn’t alone.

For Jacks, laying her husband to rest was hard. But it was even harder to think that his final moments belonged to another woman—one who had left behind her own grieving and bewildered fiancé. Nick, just as blindsided by the affair, wants answers. So he suggests that he and Jacks search for the truth together, retracing the doomed lovers’ last days in paradise.

Now, following the twisting path of that fateful road, Jacks is learning that nothing is ever as it seems. Not her marriage. Not her husband. And most certainly not his death…

OPINION: 

I listened to two of this duo’s previous novels – The Year We Turned Forty and The Status of All Things – and really enjoyed how fun and just a little bit magical they were. The Good Widow is complete head spin from those previous works, and I applaud the authors for making the leap to a new genre! I adored the Hawaiian setting for much of this story, and loved Jacks’ and Beth’s sister-relationship, and definitely did not guess the twist to this book until the authors led me to it. It was a lot of fun to go back and forth between before and after the death of Jacks’ husband, as it gave the different perspectives on the events and kept me trying to figure out who and why and where????? I can’t wait to see what Lisa and Liz write in the future – no matter what genre they write next, I’m on board with it.

Thanks to the authors for providing me with a digital advance review copy of this title!

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION

Here is the Instagram post listing all of the contest info – it runs through midnight CST on May 31st and there are 4 copies available! Come join us! If you don’t get in on the giveaway, head to your local bookstore or library on June 1st to grab a copy.

🌊GIVEAWAY 🌊 I have teamed up with a group of my bookstagram BFFs for this amazing giveaway of the suspense debut (out on June 1st from Lake Union Publishing) by the dynamic author duo @lisaandliz – we are SO EXCITED to have 4 copies of this book to give to our reading friends here! We have all read advance copies of this twisty, emotional suspense novel and can't wait to share it with you – it will keep you guessing right up until the end…….thanks to much to @lisaandliz for partnering with us on this! •*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•* To enter, please do the following (open to addresses in US and Canada only): 1) Follow @lisaandliz @theloudlibrarylady @prose_and_palate @kourtneysbookshelf and @booksandchinooks (yes, all 5 of us!!!) 2) like this post 3) Comment in the section below and tag two reading buddies. ***for extra entries, also like and comment and tag on the giveaway posts on the other sponsoring accounts too! •*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*• The giveaway will run through midnight CST on May 31st. This giveaway is not affiliated with Instagram. GOOD LUCK! #giveaway #contest #win #free #blogger

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Book Giveaway: Eden by Jeanne Blasberg

Remember my 5 STAR review of this novel a few weeks ago? I’ll wait while you go check it out………..

Great! Now that you know how much I loved the book, you are even MORE excited about this chance to win a copy of the book and a matching tote bag! This title is also a July selection for the BookSparks #SRC2017 Reading Challenge, which is a HUGE honor for a debut author.

ABOUT THE BOOK

“Eden is one woman’s story, echoing four women’s’ stories, and is, at the same time, all women’s story.  It creates a collage of female experience around the drama of introducing Becca’s long lost daughter and her impending financial despair. Determined to write the type of book I enjoy reading, my novel weaves together multiple points of view and chronologies.  I hope you love it.” – Jeanne

“..a beautifully written masterpiece that takes you on a historical journey….” —BOSTON HERALD

“A stirring historical novel perfect for women’s fiction fans.” —BOOKLIST

“If you enjoy reading family sagas that cover real history and life, this is a must-read for you.” —  READER’S FAVORITE

“This beautifully written family saga firmly establishes Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg as a rising writer to watch – and it will likely have you liking your family a whole lot more this summer.” —  REDBOOK

“Blasberg’s evocative prose captures the place and atmosphere…. An engrossing, character-driven family saga.” –KIRKUS

“This debut novel rings with lively dialogue that vivifies the rarified ethos of a family across generations.” — The Improper Bostonian

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. While coming to terms with what is likely to be her last season in Long Harbor, she decides to introduce the child she gave up for adoption fifty years prior to the family. Inspired by her granddaughter’s acceptance in the face of impending single-motherhood, Becca summons the courage to reveal the secret she’d been forced to bury. The question is how her daughter, Rachel, will react. They’d always had a strained relationship, made rockier when Rachel came home from college with an unplanned pregnancy of her own.

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, of her parents’ beginnings and ascent into affluence, and of her mother’s own secret struggles in the grand home her father named “Eden”.

Chick Lit Cafe  says EDEN is splendid, majestic, and engaging.

The Loud Library Lady calls EDEN “a love story to a family property and the beach community it inhabits….”

THE GIVEAWAY

Stacey (aka Prose and Palate), a southern book blogger and reviewer who has become one of my bookstagram BFFs, and I are partnering with the author on this giveaway, and we are so excited to share this title that we both adored so much. We both gave it 5 glowing stars and are sharing our love for it far and wide so this debut author and her wonderful book get into more hands.

Now, the entire giveaway is happening on Instagram, because 1) that’s where Stacey and img_6352I met and spend the majority of our book reviewing time, and 2) because it’s how Jeanne Blasberg first found me to reach out to me about this book! Stacey and I love our bookstagram friends and want them all to get a chance at reading this book for FREE! If you aren’t on Instagram yet, I really do insist that you start an account – my reading life has grown by leaps and bounds from the recommendations I have gotten and connections I have made there.

HOW TO ENTER:

I have made things VERY easy for you by including a link to my giveaway post below – all you need to do is follow these 3 accounts below on Instagram and comment on my post tagging 2 friends! You get an extra entry by commenting on Stacey’s post as well! I have included that right below mine to make it even EASIER! The contest runs through Friday, June 2nd, and is open to US addresses only.

Accounts to follow:

@theloudlibrarylady
@prose_and_palate
@jeanneblasbergauthor

⭐️ GIVEAWAY ⭐️ @prose_and_palate and I are extremely excited to be partnering up with @jeanneblasbergauthor for this amazing giveaway of her debut novel, Eden, and an Eden tote bag (swipe ⬅️ to see!) • This gorgeously written book set in the beach community of Long Harbor tells the story of four generations of women "all forced to make difficult choices as mothers – first in the face of strict societal norms, and ultimately within the expectations of a family trying to live up to the promise of a place called Eden" (Katherine Sherbrooke). This was a 5 star read for both of us and we are so excited to share it with you. This book is also part of @booksparks #SRC2017 reading challange for the month of July, so that is an extra perk! (they are not affiliated with this giveaway). •*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•* To enter, please do the following (US ONLY) • 1) Follow @jeanneblasbergauthor @theloudlibrarylady and @prose_and_palate (yes, all 3!) 2) like this post 3) Comment below and tag two reading buddies. ***for an extra entry, also like and comment and tag on the giveaway post on the @prose_and_palate account too! •*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•* The giveaway will run through Friday, June 2. This giveaway is not affiliated with Instagram.

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GIVEAWAY! @theloudlibrarylady and I are extremely excited to be partnering up with @jeanneblasbergauthor for this amazing giveaway of her debut novel, Eden, and an Eden tote bag! This gorgeously written book set in the beach community of Long Harbor tells the story of four generations of women "all forced to make difficult choices as mothers – first in the face of strict societal norms, and ultimately within the expectations of a family trying to live up to the promise of a place called Eden" (Katherine Sherbrooke). This was a 5 star read for both of us and we are so excited to share it with you. This book is also part of @booksparks #SRC2017 reading challange for the month of July, so that is an extra perk! (they are not affiliated with this giveaway). • • • To enter, please do the following: 1) Follow @jeanneblasbergauthor, @theloudlibrarylady, and @prose_and_palate (yes, all 3!) 2) like this post 3) Comment in the section below and tag two reading buddies. ***for an extra entry, also like and comment and tag on the giveaway post on the @theloudlibrarylady account too! The giveaway will run through Friday, June 2 and is open to US residents only. This giveaway is not affiliated with Instagram. GOOD LUCK!

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Have I convinced you yet? Even if you don’t enter the giveaway, make sure you grab this one from your local library or bookstore!

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE THE BOOK ONLINE


DISCLAIMER: The author provided me with a finished copy of this book for review purposes, and I reached out to her asking if she wanted to work with us on a giveaway. I have not been compensated in any way for any of my posts or reviews related to this book – I just believe firmly in spreading the word about books and authors I love. 

 

Reviews: May Adult Reads Part 2

May 2017 Adult Reads Part 2

Part 2 of my adult reads for the month of May 2017 ~ I had to break it up this month because there are so. many. books! Read Part 1 HERE. Part 3 will be posted on May 31st!

Now, get your cup of coffee………and settle in 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 in this post.

MothersKitchenMy Mother’s Kitchen: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and the Meaning of Life by Peter Gethers
(Henry Holt – April 4, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

Peter Gethers wants to give his aging mother a very personal and perhaps final gift: a spectacular feast featuring all her favorite dishes. The problem is, although he was raised to love food and wine he doesn’t really know how to cook. So he embarks upon an often hilarious and always touching culinary journey that will ultimately allow him to bring his mother’s friends and loved ones to the table one last time.

The daughter of a restaurateur–the restaurant was New York’s legendary Ratner’s–Judy Gethers discovered a passion for cooking in her 50s. In time, she became a mentor and friend to several of the most famous chefs in America, including Wolfgang Puck, Nancy Silverton and Jonathan Waxman; she also wrote many cookbooks and taught cooking alongside Julia Child. In her 80s, she was robbed of her ability to cook by a debilitating stroke. But illness has brought her closer than ever to her son: Peter regularly visits her so they can share meals, and he can ask questions about her colorful past, while learning her kitchen secrets. Gradually his ambition becomes manifest: he decides to learn how to cook his mother the meal of her dreams and thereby tell the story of her life to all those who have loved her.

With his trademark wit and knowing eye, Peter Gethers has written an unforgettable memoir about how food and family can do much more than feed us–they can nourish our souls.

OPINION: 4/5

This book was fabulous ~ a wonderful foodie memoir and ode to his mother, a woman who sounds like one of the most marvelous characters on earth. So happy I read this book.

Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy!

OneDayWellAllBeDeadOne Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul
(Doubleday Canada – March 7, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

In One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter, Scaachi deploys her razor-sharp humour to share her fears, outrages and mortifying experiences as an outsider growing up in Canada. Her subjects range from shaving her knuckles in grade school, to a shopping trip gone horribly awry, to dealing with internet trolls, to feeling out of place at an Indian wedding (as an Indian woman), to parsing the trajectory of fears and anxieties that pressed upon her immigrant parents and bled down a generation. Alongside these personal stories are pointed observations about life as a woman of colour, where every aspect of her appearance is open for critique, derision or outright scorn. Where strict gender rules bind in both Western and Indian cultures, forcing her to confront questions about gender dynamics, racial tensions, ethnic stereotypes and her father’s creeping mortality–all as she tries to find her feet in the world.

OPINION: 4/5

These essays are hilarious and cutting and so so very real. Koul does not hold back even one tiny bit in her commentary on womanhood, race and culture, which makes this an incredibly refreshing and feminist read. Her dialogue and descriptions of her parents are simultaneously witty and touching, and tell the reader exactly how much she loves them. This book is much needed and highly recommended.

This was one of my April Book of the Month Club picks – a subscription service I pay for. 

ItsAlwaystheHusbandIt’s Always the Husband by Michele Campbell
(St. Martin’s Press – May 16, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

Kate, Aubrey, and Jenny. They first met as college roommates and soon became inseparable, even though they are as different as three women can be. Twenty years later, one of them is standing at the edge of a bridge . . and someone else is urging her to jump.

How did things come to this?

As the novel cuts back and forth between their college years and their adult years, you see the exact reasons why these women love and hate each other—but can feelings that strong lead to murder? Or will everyone assume, as is often the case, that it’s always the husband?

OPINION: 3/5

Campbell draws readers in immediately with the college setting, and then horrifies and intrigues them with the account of the year of drugs and debauchery the girls experience together. The mark of a successful thriller, in my opinion, is keeping the reader guessing until the very last minute, and this book almost did that for me – I had several theories that I kept alternating between, with the true one only a glimmer that would pop up occasionally. I devoured this book in less than 18 hours and was genuinely surprised at how things actually happened – not shocked, but intrigued that that’s where she went with it.

I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t connect with a single character, but I also believe that Campbell wrote the characters that way – they perfectly fit the boxes she drew for them. I couldn’t see any evidence whatsoever of why Jenny and Aubrey kept being so loyal to Kate when she was obviously so horrible to them, but some of the references make it seem that those reasons happened outside of the story’s narrative. A solid thriller that the majority of suspense and thriller fans will enjoy.

I received a digital ARC of this title for review – all opinions are my own.

File_000 (4)Secrets in Summer by Nancy Thayer
(Ballantine Books – May 16, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

Memorial Day weekend means that seasonal visitors have descended on the glamorous island of Nantucket. For year-round resident Darcy Cotterill, it means late-night stargazing in the backyard of the beautiful house she grew up in and inherited from her beloved grandmother. It s also Darcy s chance to hit the beach and meet her new summertime neighbors. But the last person the thirty-year-old librarian expects to see staying next door is her ex-husband, Boyz, along with his wife, Autumn, and stepdaughter, Willow.

Darcy must also navigate the highs and lows of a new romantic relationship with local carpenter Nash Forester even as she becomes smitten with handsome vacationer Clive Rush, a musicologist in town to write a book and visit family. And she finds herself pulled into the concerns of Boyz, Autumn, a charming elderly neighbor, and an at-risk teen.

As the season nears its end, Darcy must decide her next move: retreating to the comforts of her steady and secure island life, or risking it all for a chance at true happiness.

OPINION: 3/5

I am a complete sucker for books set in Nantucket and books with a librarian main character, so this one completely filled those criteria. It’s a very, very frothy story and one that is a perfect beach read for those days when you know you’ll be distracted by kids (or people-watching) constantly and need to be able to not focus on an intricate plot line. I loved all of the Nantucket descriptions and reading about Darcy’s time at work as a children’s librarian. I also really like reading about her love of books and reading.

The one issue I had with this story is just how much I hated Boyz (and his NAME! and his FAMILY!) and every single part of the book where he is included. I completely skimmed over the part where it describes Darcy and Boyz meeting and their time together, and whenever he entered the story later on I wanted to skip it. He is supposed to be an unlikeable character, but I wish he had been a very, very background minor player.

All in all, this one will satisfy most readers of frothy romantic chick lit and long time Thayer fans.

I received a digital ARC of this title for review – all opinions are my own.

IntoTheWaterInto the Water by Paula Hawkins
(Riverhead Books – May 2, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.

OPINION: 2/5 (Aubible Audio version)

1.5 stars. Just……no. Maybe it was the audio version that I disliked so much, maybe it was the insane hype, maybe my expectations were too high, maybe the story really was that ugly and boring. I finally put this at 1.25x listening speed just to get through it. Not for me.

I used one of my monthly Audible credits to purchase this audiobook. 

JustMyFaceThis is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare by Gabourey Sidibe
(Houghton Mifflin – May 1, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

Gabourey Sidibe—“Gabby” to her legion of fans—skyrocketed to international fame in 2009 when she played the leading role in Lee Daniels acclaimed movie Precious. In This is Just My Face, she shares a one-of-a-kind life story. Sidibe paints her Bed-Stuy/Harlem family life with a polygamous father and a gifted mother who supports her two children by singing in the subway. Sidibe tells the story of her first job as a phone sex “talker.” And she shares her unconventional rise to fame as a movie star, alongside “a superstar cast of rich people who lived in mansions and had their own private islands and amazing careers while I lived in my mom’s apartment.”

OPINION: 5/5

Hilarious and honest, this book that is more essays than memoir lays Sidibe’s life out with absolutely no attempts at shielding readers from the harsh realities that were her childhood experiences. Her honesty about her eating disorder and depression are what earned the 5th star, as these issues are too often kept secret or vaguely referenced. Sidibe does neither, and still manages to be witty while recounting her darkest days. My heart ached for her childhood self, and cheered for her as she pulled her way up through some extremely tough challenges that would have knocked many others down. Highly recommend for adult readers open to raw and open dialogue about family, gender, race and body issues.

I checked this book out from the public library. 

File_000 (5)Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
(Doubleday – May 23, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

Kevin Kwan, bestselling author of Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend, is back with an uproarious new novel of a family riven by fortune, an ex-wife driven psychotic with jealousy, a battle royal fought through couture gown sabotage, and the heir to one of Asia’s greatest fortunes locked out of his inheritance.

When Nicholas Young hears that his grandmother, Su Yi, is on her deathbed, he rushes to be by her bedside–but he’s not alone. It seems the entire Shang-Young clan has convened from all corners of the globe, ostensibly to care for their matriarch but truly to stake claim on the massive fortune that Su Yi controls. With each family member secretly fantasizing about getting the keys to Tyersall Park–a trophy estate on 64 prime acres in the heart of Singapore–the place becomes a hotbed of intrigue and Nicholas finds himself blocked from entering the premises. As relatives claw over heirlooms, Astrid Leong is at the center of her own storm, desperately in love with her old sweetheart Charlie Wu, but tormented by his ex-wife–a woman hell bent on destroying Astrid’s reputation and relationship. Meanwhile Kitty Pong, married to billionaire Jack Bing, finds a formidable opponent in his fashionista daughter, Colette. A sweeping novel that takes us from the elegantly appointed mansions of Manila to the secluded private islands in the Sulu Sea, from a schoolyard kidnapping to a gold-leaf dancefloor spattered with blood, Kevin Kwan’s gloriously wicked new novel reveals the long-buried secrets and rich people problems of Asia’s most privileged families.

OPINION: 5/5

This series is my utter guilty pleasure! I actually listened to the first two books Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend from Audible, and they were SO amazing to listen to. TCRAhe accents were outstanding and they were just hilarious. I read this newest installment, and found it just as fun to read in print as it was to listen to the first two. This series has me 1) dying to visit Singapore 2) desperate to own a property like Tyersall Park and 3) so sad I’ll never meet Su Yi.CRG

Down-to-earth and modern couple Nick and Rachel put all of the ridiculousness and pretentious show of their family and friends into perspective, and let you enjoy this as a completely tongue-in-cheek soap opera. We ALL have an extra cool $3 billion to invest in a pet project, right? I love that Kwan ends this latest book in a way that leaves me desperately hoping for a next installment featuring……….no spoilers, but I love the ending!

This book could stand alone, but to appreciate the full pleasure of the story, read books 1 and 2 first!

Thanks to NetGalley for the digital ARC of this title.


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!

 

 

 

The Simplicity of Cider: Adult Title Feature

I’m so excited to share with you all the newest release from one of my favorite authors, Amy E. Reichert! She is a Wisconsin author, which makes her work near and dear to my born-and-bred Wisconsin heart. This title is out on May 16th, and is a perfect fit for both Wisconsinites and non-locals who love a good story about family and pride, with little touches of romance and magic.

Here is the official book description as well as my thoughts on this title:

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION: 

The Simplicity of Cider
by Amy E. Reichert
(Gallery Books – May 16, 2017)

Focused and unassuming fifth generation cider-maker Sanna Lund has one desire: to live a simple, quiet life on her family’s apple orchard in Door County, Wisconsin. Although her business is struggling, Sanna remains fiercely devoted to the orchard, despite her brother’s attempts to convince their aging father to sell the land.

Single dad Isaac Banks has spent years trying to shield his son Sebastian from his troubled mother. Fleeing heartbreak at home, Isaac packed up their lives and the two headed out on an adventure, driving across the country. Chance—or fate—led them straight to Sanna’s orchard.

Isaac’s helping hands are much appreciated at the apple farm, even more when Sanna’s father is injured in an accident. As Sanna’s formerly simple life becomes increasingly complicated, she finds solace in unexpected places—friendship with young Sebastian and something more deliciously complex with Isaac—until an outside threat infiltrates the farm.

OPINION: 4/5

CoconutCakeYou had me at Wisconsin. You had me at apples. Add in the fact this is the Wisconsin author of a favorite book of mine (The Coincidence of Coconut Cake) and I was dying to read this! Thanks so much to the publisher for providing me with a finished copy of this book for review pre-release!

Sanna Lund is certainly not the typical quirky but warm and lovable female protagonist that I typically see in this type of book – she is bristly and singularly focused on her orchard and ONLY her orchard. However, her relationship with her father is achingly sweet, and her desire to hold onto her family’s land is one that any longtime-landowner can relate to. No matter what, the land is worth more than any money it can bring in. This is something I see every day as a rural lifelong Wisconsin resident, and Reichert nailed this characteristic. She also completely accurately portrayed the starkness and isolation of rural Wisconsin in the winter – loss of electricity, potentially being housebound, etc. I live this life, and appreciate both Sanna’s determination to live this way forever, as well as her mother’s complete and utter horror at her time in Door County.

This story may have romantic elements, and a hint of suspense, but I simply adored the tiny touch of magic that Reichert wove in. Being able to taste colors and having a family “special touch” with their trees is just special enough, but also just believable enough to allow readers to completely buy into this storyline. It left me wanting to taste Sanna’s cider to see what color I would see upon drinking it!

All in all, Reichert has yet again brought Wisconsin and its beauty to readers in the rest of the world with unforgettable characters and a unique setting.

LuckLoveLemonPieNOTE: I am currently listening to Reichert’s second title Luck, Love and Lemon Pie from Audible and am really enjoying it – I can’t wait to share my review of it in my next Adult Reads round-up at the end of this month!


Find me on Goodreads for ALL of the middle grade, YA and adult books I read. All of my picture book reviews are on my Instagram ~ would love to see you there as well!

Reviews: May Adult Reads Part 1

Part 1 of my adult reads for the month – settle in and get ready to meet some new books!

File_000 (3)

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.

TheLeaversThe Leavers by Lisa Ko
(Algonquin – May 2, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

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.

OPINION: 5/5

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.

TheLightWeLostThe Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo
(G.P. Putnam’s Sons – May 9th 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

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.

OPINION: 3.5/5

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.

But.

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.

WidowofWallStreetWidow of Wall Street by Randy Susan Meyers
(Atria Books – April 11, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION

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.

OPINION: 3/5

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. 

NooneCanPronounceMyNameNo One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal
(Picador – May 2, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

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.

OPINION: 4/5

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.

EdenEden by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg 
(She Writes Press – May 2, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

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.”

OPINION: 5/5

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.

MakingItRightMaking It Right (Most Likely To #3) by Catherine Bybee
(Montlake Romance – May 9, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

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?

OPINION: 4/5 

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. 


Find me on Goodreads for ALL of the middle grade, YA and adult books I read. All of my picture book reviews are on my Instagram ~ would love to see you there as well!

Reviews: April Adult Reads Part 2

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The rest of my adult reads for the month of April 2017 ~ I had to break it up this month because there are so. many. books! Read Part 1 HERE

Now, get your cup of coffee………and settle in 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.

TheUndateableThe Undateable: Librarians in Love #1 by Sarah Title
(Zebra Shout MMP – Feb 28, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

One San Francisco librarian would rather check out a good romance than dare to experience it herself. Luckily, her own next chapter is full of surprises…

Melissa “Bernie” Bernard isn’t familiar with fame. After all, she works at a college library with hardly any visitors. But when a video of a marriage proposal in her stacks goes viral, it’s not the bride and groom who capture the Internet’s attention. It’s Bernie—caught rolling her eyes. Now, just as she’s ready to go into hiding and permanently bury her nose in a book, a handsome reporter appears with a proposal of his own…

If Colin Rodriguez doesn’t do something big to attract new readers, his boss will hire someone else to dole out dating advice. Determined to prove he’s an expert at romance—despite his own pitiful track record—he pitches a story: He will find dates for the undateable. Specifically, for the now-infamous, love‑hating librarian at Richmond College.

Even though Bernie doesn’t believe in happily-ever-afters, she’s not one to resist a good challenge. Yet with one disastrous date after another, she’s ready to give up. Until Colin proves he’ll do anything to find her the perfect match—even if it means putting himself up for the role…

OPINION: 4/5

How could a librarian like me not love this book? A fun, witty, sweet modern romance with enough sass and librarian-ness to make it different than most. Can’t wait for the next book in the series!

I purchased this book from Amazon.

TheFifthLetterThe Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty
(William Morris – January 24, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION: 

Nicola Moriarty makes her US debut with this stunning page-turner for fans of Jojo Moyes, Emily Griffin, Kate Morton, and Jessica Knoll, about four best friends on a relaxing vacation that turns devastating when old secrets are revealed, long-held grudges surface, and a shattering betrayal is discovered that shakes the foundation of their lives.

Best friends from high school, Joni, Deb, Eden, and Trina had always looked forward to the vacations they spent together. But the demands of careers, husbands, and babies gradually pulled them apart, and now their annual getaways may be a thing of the past. Joni doesn’t want to lose her friends, and this year she’s coaxed them all back together for some fun at a beach house.

Late on a laughter and wine-filled night, the women dare one another to write anonymous letters, spilling her most intimate thoughts like they did as teenagers. But the fun game meant to bring them closer together turns painfully serious, exposing cracks in their lives and their relationships. Each letter is a confession revealing disturbing information. A rocky marriage. A harrowing addiction. A hidden pregnancy. A heartbreaking diagnosis.

Days later, Joni notices something in the fireplace—a crumpled and partially burned fifth letter that holds the most shattering admission of all. 

Best friends are supposed to keep your darkest secrets. But the revelations Joni, Deb, Eden and Trina have shared will have unforeseen consequences . . . and none of them will ever be the same.

OPINION: 4/5

I listened to the audio version of this book from Audible and really enjoyed it. Friendship, secrets, love and intrigue – this light and fast-paced book has it all! I didn’t know Liane Moriarty had author sisters, but she DOES! Nicola is the youngest and she also has another book coming in 2018 that I already marked as TBR in Goodreads. Regarding the audio version from Audible, I also have listened to (rather than read with my eyes) every one of Liane Moriarty’s books and there is just something about the Australian accent in the narration that make me love them even more….this book was the same in that regard. Recommended for anyone who likes LM’s books!

I used one of my Audible subscription credits for this book, paid for with my own funds.

slightly south of simpleSlightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey
(Gallery Books – April 25, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION: 

Caroline Murphy swore she’d never set foot back in the small Southern town of Peachtree Bluff; she was a New York girl born and bred and the worst day of her life was when, in the wake of her father’s death, her mother selfishly forced her to move—during her senior year of high school, no less—back to that hick-infested rat trap where she’d spent her childhood summers. But now that her marriage to a New York high society heir has fallen apart in a very public, very embarrassing fashion, a pregnant Caroline decides to escape the gossipmongers with her nine-year-old daughter and head home to her mother, Ansley.

Ansley has always put her three daughters first, especially when she found out that her late husband, despite what he had always promised, left her with next to nothing. Now the proud owner of a charming waterfront design business and finally standing on her own two feet, Ansley welcomes Caroline and her brood back with open arms. But when her second daughter Sloane, whose military husband is overseas, and youngest daughter and successful actress Emerson join the fray, Ansley begins to feel like the piece of herself she had finally found might be slipping from her grasp. Even more discomfiting, when someone from her past reappears in Ansley’s life, the secret she’s harbored from her daughters their entire lives might finally be forced into the open.

Exploring the powerful bonds between sisters and mothers and daughters, this engaging novel is filled with Southern charm, emotional drama, and plenty of heart.

OPINION: 2/5

While this is most definitely marketed as, and is, a summer beach read, it’s not one I’d necessarily recommend when there are so, so, so many great ones in this category. My main issue with this book is the almost nonstop comments about weight and appearances, none of which are necessary to the storyline. The characters would be much more likable if these comments weren’t in the story, and for me, they completely overshadow the positive aspects of the book. I have a major soapbox to stand on regarding body positivity and acceptance, and the characters in this book are not people I would ever allow in my life, Caroline in particular. Ansley also includes comments about weight in her dialogue, and also includes a thought about Caroline’s breastfeeding and how she’s glad she never needed to do it because it wasn’t a think when she had children, and questioning the health benefits to the baby (another soapbox issue of mine).

All of this put together means I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to like this book as much as I had hoped to, but will be willing to try future books in the series and will hope that all of the snotty fat-shaming has disappeared from the dialogue in those books.

I received a digital ARC of this title for review – all opinions are my own.

TheMothThe Moth Presents: All These Wonders
(Crown Archetype – March 21, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

From storytelling phenomenon The Moth, 45 unforgettable true stories about risk, courage, and facing the unknown, drawn from the best ever told on their stages
Carefully selected by the creative minds at The Moth, and adapted to the page to preserve the raw energy of live storytelling, All These Wonders features voices both familiar and new. Alongside Louis C.K., Tig Notaro, John Turturro, and Meg Wolitzer, readers will encounter: an astronomer gazing at the surface of Pluto for the first time, an Afghan refugee learning how much her father sacrificed to save their family, a hip-hop star coming to terms with being a one-hit wonder, a young female spy risking everything as part of Churchill’s secret army during World War II, and more.
High-school student and neuroscientist alike, the storytellers share their ventures into uncharted territory and how their lives were changed indelibly by what they discovered there. With passion, and humor, they encourage us all to be more open, vulnerable, and alive.”

OPINION: 5/5

Imagine every single amazing short story you have ever read, all compiled in one book…..and they are all TRUE!  I have been slowly savoring this book since I received it in March and I finally allowed myself to finish it. I love The Moth podcast and The Moth Radio Hour, so I knew what to expect from this book, but I’m still blown away. There is every kind of story possible here, from a concentration camp survivor to the author Jane Green recalling a rocky time in her marriage, humanitarian rescues from a refugee camp in Africa to author Meg Wolitzer telling how she met her best friend. This book is one I want to return to many times in the future.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. 

TheFWordThe F Word by Liza Palmer
(Flatiron Books – April 25, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

At once a funny, whip-smart sendup of Los Angeles culture and an irresistible love story, internationally bestselling author Liza Palmer’s The F Word is a novel about how sometimes who we become isn t who we really are.

We re all pushing some version of the life we want you to believe. It s all just PR.

Olivia Morten is perfect. Maybe her high-flying publicist job has taken over her life, but her clients are Los Angeles’ hottest celebrities. Maybe her husband is never around, but he is a drop-dead-gorgeous, successful doctor. Maybe her friends are dumb, but they know how to look glamorous at a cocktail party. And maybe her past harbors an incredibly embarrassing secret, but no one remembers high school right?

When Ben Dunn, Olivia s high school arch nemesis and onetime crush, suddenly resurfaces, Olivia realizes how precarious all of her perfection is. As she finds herself dredging up long-suppressed memories from her past, she is forced to confront the most painful truth of all: maybe she used to be the fat girl, but she used to be happy, too.

OPINION: 4/5

A fiercely real, funny and feminist story for any woman who realizes that food is glorious and happiness has nothing to do whatsoever to size or appearance. For those of us who have struggled to find or regain our sense of self and self love in this messed up world of diets, fanatic exercise, plastic surgery and a filtered portrayal to the masses. I really enjoyed this story and highlighted about 15 different passages that resonated with me. I found this book fantastically freeing.

I received a digital ARC of this title for review – all opinions are my own.

ImpossibleFortressThe Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak
(Simon & Schuster – February 7, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

A dazzling debut novel—at once a charming romance and a moving coming-of-age story—about what happens when a fourteen-year old boy pretends to seduce a girl to steal a copy of Playboy but then discovers she is his computer-loving soulmate.

Billy Marvin’s first love was a computer. Then he met Mary Zelinsky.

Do you remember your first love?

The Impossible Fortress begins with a magazine…The year is 1987 and Playboy has just published scandalous photographs of Vanna White, from the popular TV game show Wheel of Fortune. For three teenage boys—Billy, Alf, and Clark—who are desperately uneducated in the ways of women, the magazine is somewhat of a Holy Grail: priceless beyond measure and impossible to attain. So, they hatch a plan to steal it.

The heist will be fraught with peril: a locked building, intrepid police officers, rusty fire escapes, leaps across rooftops, electronic alarm systems, and a hyperactive Shih Tzu named Arnold Schwarzenegger. Failed attempt after failed attempt leads them to a genius master plan—they’ll swipe the security code to Zelinsky’s convenience store by seducing the owner’s daughter, Mary Zelinsky. It becomes Billy’s mission to befriend her and get the information by any means necessary. But Mary isn’t your average teenage girl. She’s a computer loving, expert coder, already strides ahead of Billy in ability, with a wry sense of humor and a hidden, big heart. But what starts as a game to win Mary’s affection leaves Billy with a gut-wrenching choice: deceive the girl who may well be his first love or break a promise to his best friends.

OPINION: 4/5

As a completely nerdy child of the ’80s, I loved this book. This one is for those of us who remember playing LOGO as the only game available in the computer lab in elementary school, the ones who typed on typewriters as a hobby, and the ones who have at least once in their lives forgotten to eat, sleep or shower because of a coding problem. While I have never come close to the level of coding in this book, I can appreciate the obsessive nature of it and loved how imperfect Will was. Did he do stupid things? Totally. Was he a 14-year-old boy? Yes. Do those things naturally go together? Of course. I loved the wholehearted geekiness of this book and bow down to Rekulak for making Mary the better coder of the two main characters. This was a very fast read, and one that I won’t soon forget.

This was one of my April picks from Book of the Month Club, which I pay for. 

ChoicesWeMakeThe Choices We Make by Karma Brown
(Mira – July 12, 2016)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

Following her bestselling debut novel Come Away with Me, Karma Brown returns with an unforgettable story that explores the intricate dynamics between friends and mothers

Hannah and Kate became friends in the fifth grade, when Hannah hit a boy for looking up Kate’s skirt with a mirror. While they’ve been close as sisters ever since, Hannah can’t help but feel envious of the little family Kate and her husband, David, have created—complete with two perfect little girls.

She and Ben have been trying for years to have a baby, so when they receive the news that she will likely never get pregnant, Hannah’s heartbreak is overwhelming. But just as they begin to tentatively explore the other options, it’s Kate’s turn to do the rescuing. Not only does she offer to be Hannah’s surrogate, but Kate is willing to use her own eggs to do so.

Full of renewed hope, excitement and gratitude, these two families embark on an incredible journey toward parenthood…until a devastating tragedy puts everything these women have worked toward at risk of falling apart. Poignant and refreshingly honest, The Choices We Make is a powerful tale of two mothers, one incredible friendship and the risks we take to make our dreams come true.

OPINION: 5/5

This book ripped my heart out – I had tears running down my face for pretty much the entire second half, although the first half had a lot of heartbreak as well…….friendship, marriage, infertility, surrogacy, life and death decisions ~ this book has ALL of it. And it’s written in Karma Brown’s won’t-let-you-go style that has me anticipating her next book (COMING SOOOOOON!) just that much more! Her first book is still fresh in my brain, and this one won’t be letting go of me anytime soon. Required reading for fans of women’s emotional fiction.

I used one of my Audible subscription credits for this book, paid for with my own funds.

AnythingisPossibleAnything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
(Random House – April 25, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout comes a brilliant latticework of fiction that recalls Olive Kitteridge in its richness, structure, and complexity. Written in tandem with My Name Is Lucy Barton and drawing on the small-town characters evoked there, these pages reverberate with the themes of love, loss, and hope that have drawn millions of readers to Strout s work.

“As I was writing My Name Is Lucy Barton,” Strout says, “it came to me that all the characters Lucy and her mother talked about had their own stories—of course!—and so the unfolding of their lives became tremendously important to me.”

Here, among others, are the “Pretty Nicely Girls,” now adults: One trades self-respect for a wealthy husband, the other finds in the pages of a book a kindred spirit who changes her life. Tommy, the janitor at the local high school, has his faith tested in an encounter with an emotionally isolated man he has come to help; a Vietnam veteran suffering from PTSD discovers unexpected solace in the company of a lonely innkeeper; and Lucy Barton’s sister, Vicky, struggling with feelings of abandonment and jealousy, nonetheless comes to Lucy’s aid, ratifying the deepest bonds of family.

With the stylistic brilliance and subtle power that distinguish the work of this great writer, Elizabeth Strout has created another transcendent work of fiction, with characters who will live in readers’ imaginations long after the final page is turned.

OPINION: 5/5

Stunningly crafted collection of linked stories that can best be described as riveting, meandering, and shocking. These stories are all based on characters from Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton (which somehow I missed reading) but the book is 100% capable of standing alone, as evidenced by my 5-stars. I wavered between 4 and 5 since so often while reading I was cringing and being flustered at the rawness of what I was reading, but Strout’s ability to capture the darkness of the human character is outstanding. I just don’t always WANT to know this darkness, which is why I understand this book won’t be for everyone.

Not a beach read, not a nicely wrapped book of happiness, but a book that makes you think and one that will linger in your mind. Strout is a literary fiction master.

I received a digital ARC of this title for review – all opinions are my own. 

StartupStartup by Doree Shafrir
(Little, Brown – April 25, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

Mack McAllister has a $600 million dollar idea. His mindfulness app, TakeOff, is already the hottest thing in tech and he’s about to launch a new and improved version that promises to bring investors running and may turn his brainchild into a $1 billion dollar business–in startup parlance, an elusive unicorn.

Katya Pasternack is hungry for a scoop that will drive traffic. An ambitious young journalist at a gossipy tech blog, Katya knows that she needs more than another PR friendly puff piece to make her the go-to byline for industry news.

Sabrina Choe Blum just wants to stay afloat. The exhausted mother of two and failed creative writer is trying to escape from her credit card debt and an inattentive husband-who also happens to be Katya’s boss-as she rejoins a work force that has gotten younger, hipper, and much more computer literate since she’s been away.

Before the ink on Mack’s latest round of funding is dry, an errant text message hints that he may be working a bit too closely for comfort with a young social media manager in his office. When Mack’s bad behavior collides with Katya’s search for a salacious post, Sabrina gets caught in the middle as TakeOff goes viral for all the wrong reasons. As the fallout from Mack’s scandal engulfs the lower Manhattan office building where all three work, it’s up to Katya and Sabrina to write the story the men in their lives would prefer remain untold.

An assured, observant debut from the veteran online journalist Doree Shafrir, Startup is a sharp, hugely entertaining story of youth, ambition, love, money and technology’s inability to hack human nature.

OPINION: 3/5

Startup is an engaging tech-y read that sucked me in and kept me glued to the page. As a geek who reads a lot about startups and the tech world, I really enjoyed the storyline. I especially liked the discussion of women in tech and lack of minority representation – this is all real, and there are numerous reports out showing what an issue it is. All of that led to my 3 stars, but what kept me from adding more is the “now” of it – given the speed at which tech moves, this book will be outdated in less than a year. An example of an excellent book that is tech-y about social media, etc, is The Circle by Dave Eggers – by NOT naming company/app names, you can keep a book relevant for much longer. I liked the “older”-in-tech view from Sabrina, which was reminiscent of the movie “The Intern” (which I loved) and is also something I have seen elsewhere. As a 36-year-old mom, I also could relate to Sabrina’s storyline more than anyone else’s in the book.

I appreciate that Safrir is writing from a place she knows dearly, and do not question the authenticity of her experiences – I just wish she could have made the story more timeless. And writing about this story online is actually making me feel incredibly meta 😉

I received a digital ARC of this title for review – all opinions are my own. 

MarlenaMarlena by Julie Buntin
(Henry Holt – April 4, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

An electric debut novel about love, addiction, and loss; the story of two girls and the feral year that will cost one her life, and define the other’s for decades

Everything about fifteen-year-old Cat’s new town in rural Michigan is lonely and off-kilter, until she meets her neighbor, the manic, beautiful, pill-popping Marlena. Cat, inexperienced and desperate for connection, is quickly lured into Marlena’s orbit by little more than an arched eyebrow and a shake of white-blond hair. As the two girls turn the untamed landscape of their desolate small town into a kind of playground, Cat catalogues a litany of firsts—first drink, first cigarette, first kiss—while Marlena’s habits harden and calcify. Within the year, Marlena is dead, drowned in six inches of icy water in the woods nearby. Now, decades later, when a ghost from that pivotal year surfaces unexpectedly, Cat must try to forgive herself and move on, even as the memory of Marlena keeps her tangled in the past.

Alive with an urgent, unshakable tenderness, Julie Buntin’s Marlena is an unforgettable look at the people who shape us beyond reason and the ways it might be possible to pull oneself back from the brink.

OPINION: 4/5

Marlena combines all of my nightmares about children living with addiction and sexual abuse and poverty and neglect and wraps them all up into the most unforgettable and depressing book I have read in a long time. Honestly, I quit reading this book 5 different times, but forced myself to finish because 1) it was a Book of the Month title and I wanted to do it justice and 2) I had read many rave reviews and needed to find out for myself why others were raving.

I’m very happy I did finish this book, because Buntin did an excellent job of portraying addiction and meth and an aptly described “feral year” without in any way glamorizing it or tying it all up with a happy ending. For the masses of Americans living in the exact way described in this book (lives I have small glimpses into as a public school librarian), this is a heartbreaking testimonial to their reality. For those lucky enough to have escaped the horrors of addiction, this is one of the most powerful empathy-building books I have ever read. I withheld the 5th star because I reserve those for books I want everyone I know to read, and I really don’t want to purposefully inflict the misery I endured while experiencing this story. I look forward to reading more of Buntin’s books in the future – she is a masterful writer.

This was one of my April picks from Book of the Month Club, which I pay for. 


Find me on Goodreads for ALL of the middle grade, YA and adult books I read. All of my picture book reviews are on my Instagram ~ would love to see you there as well!

Reviews: April Adult Reads Part 1

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Half of my adult reads for the month of April 2017 ~ I had to break it up this month because there are so. many. books! Part 2 will come next Sunday 4/30/17. 

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.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Riverhead Books – March 7, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION: 

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. . . .

Exit West follows these remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

OPINION: 5/5 (would give 10/5 for cultural importance if I could!)

BEST BOOK OF 2017. Not just “so far in 2017” but this should just BE the best book of the year! I’m giving it that label for 1) timeliness 2) writing style 3) having magic doors that in no way during the book feel magic – they read as border crossings (making magic seem not magical IS magical in literature) 4) being so right and true about so many different areas of life. Life, death, love, marriage, friendship, oh and of course immigration, migration and the refugee crisis. I will return to this book many times in the future to re-read the countless quotes that hit home for me. This is an incredibly fast read and is NOT a political tome. One of my favorite things about the book was Hamid’s writing style and his ability to make sentences into entire passages – I adore when writers flaunt the “shoulds” in writing and just do what works for the book. I may possibly feel this way due to my own disdain for following writing rules. Hmmm. BUT, if that’s the case, then it would also be an amazing book to use in writing classes to teach that rules don’t make high literature, stories do. Right? Because this book is high literature and is being touted as one of the best and most timely all over the place – rather than have lowly me try to do it full justice, please see these interviews and articles:  New York Times ~ The Atlantic ~ The Guardian ~ NPR

This was one of my March Book of the Month Club selections. I pay for the subscription.

The Other Half of Happiness by Ayisha Malik (Zaffre – April 6, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION: 

Sofia Khan is just married. But no-one told her life was going to be this way . . .

Her living situation is in dire straits, her husband Conall is distant, and his annoyingly attractive colleague is ringing all sorts of alarm bells.

When her mother forces them into a belated wedding ceremony (elopement: you can run, but you can’t hide), Sofia wonders if it might be a chance to bring them together. But when it forces Conall to confess his darkest secret, it might just tear them apart.

A book to make you smile, laugh and cry, this is the story of a mixed-race marriage and a mixed-up family, for anyone who’s ever struggled to balance their pride with their principles, or stuck around to try to mend a broken heart.

OPINION: 4/5

Hilarious and heartwarming…..or maybe heartbreaking? The ending left me conflicted about whether to be sad or hopeful for Sofia…..hoping that means we get another Sofia book soon! I loved the diary-style writing and the richly development characters and relationships in this book ~ those two things don’t often go together but Malik managed it! My only regret is that I didn’t read the first book in the series (Sofia Khan is Not Obliged) before this one, although this stood alone just fine. I just would have been able to enjoy more of Sofia’s story if I read them in order! I look forward to seeing future books from the author.

I received a digital ARC of this title for review – all opinions are my own.

One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline (St. Martin’s Press – April 11, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION: 

On paper, Chris Brennan looks perfect. He’s applying for a job as a high school government teacher, he’s ready to step in as an assistant baseball coach, and his references are impeccable.

But everything about Chris Brennan is a lie.

Susan Sematov is proud of her son Raz, a high school pitcher so athletically talented that he’s being recruited for a full-ride scholarship to a Division I college, with a future in major-league baseball. But Raz’s father died only a few months ago, leaving her son in a vulnerable place where any new father figure might influence him for good, or evil.

Heather Larkin is a struggling single mother who lives for her son Jordan’s baseball games. But Jordan is shy, and Heather fears he is being lured down a dark path by one of his teammates, a young man from an affluent family whose fun-loving manner might possibly conceal his violent plans.

Mindy Kostis succumbs to the pressure of being a surgeon’s wife by filling her days with social events and too many gin and tonics. But she doesn’t know that her husband and her son, Evan, are keeping secrets from her – secrets that might destroy all of them.

At the center of all of them is Chris Brennan. Why is he there? What does he want? And what is he willing to do to get it?

Enthralling and suspenseful, One Perfect Lie is an emotional thriller and a suburban crime story that will have readers riveted up to the shocking end, with killer twists and characters you won’t soon forget.

OPINION: 3/5

I’m a big fan of this author, especially the Rosato & DiNunzio novels. Due to that, I’ll read whatever she writes and am willing to overlook a lot of flaws that I would downgrade unknown authors for. This book was highly readable and filled with suspense, which kept me turning the pages and wanting to find out what happened next despite the highly unbelievable plot twists and action scenes. I’m all for suspending disbelief and just enjoying a story, which is what I definitely did with this one……released all semblance of reality and went along for the ride.

I received a digital ARC of this title for review – all opinions are my own.

At Mama’s Knee: Mothers and Race in Black and White by April Ryan (Roman & Littlefield – December 15, 2016)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

In her first book, The Presidency in Black and White, journalist April Ryan examined race in America through her experience as a White House reporter. In this book, she shifts the conversation from the White House to every home in America. At Mama’s Knee looks at race and race relations through the lessons that mothers transmit to their children. As a single African American mother in Baltimore, Ryan has struggled with each gut wrenching, race related news story to find the words to convey the right lessons to her daughters. To better understand how mothers transfer to their children wisdom on race and race relations, she reached out to other mothers–prominent political leaders like Hillary Clinton and Valerie Jarrett, celebrities like Cindy Williams, and others like Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother, whose lives have been impacted by prominent race related events. At a time when Americans still struggle to address racial division and prejudice, their stories remind us that attitudes change from one generation to the next and one child at a time.

OPINION: 4/5

Incredibly important nonfiction book on race and motherhood in America, leaning more heavily toward race. NOT a quick memoir or a light read. Ryan’s acknowledgement and celebration of the importance of mothers is woven throughout the entire book, especially single mothers and especially Black mothers. There is extensive research evident and a vast number of personal interviews quoted directly within the book, from figures such as President Obama, Valerie Jarrett, Cory Booker and Wes Moore (a favorite author of mine) among many others. I had a few issues with some repetition of content (almost as if each chapter were a stand-alone essay) but I won’t let that take away from the importance of the message and content. Ryan’s analysis and condemnation of the n-word (both -er and -a endings) is very thorough and includes insight from sources both for and against the right for Blacks to use the word. Whites, obviously, are banned from its use regardless of ending, tone or intention. The chapter about “the talk” is reminiscent of the coverage Michael Eric Dyson gives the topic in his “Tears We Cannot Stop” – heartbreaking and vital for everyone in the US to know about. The coverage of the city of Baltimore was very interesting to me, as the only other knowledge I have of the city comes from Wes Moore’s book “The Other Wes Moore”. This book is recommended reading for all.

I checked this book out from the public library. 

Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile (Penguin Books, February 6, 2014)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

Charley Bordelon, an African American woman and single mother is struggling to build a new life amid the complexities of the contemporary South.

When Charley unexpectedly inherits eight hundred acres of sugarcane land, she and her eleven-year-old daughter say goodbye to smoggy Los Angeles and head to Louisiana. She soon learns, however, that cane farming is always going to be a white man’s business. As the sweltering summer unfolds, Charley struggles to balance the overwhelming challenges of a farm in decline with the demands of family and the startling desires of her own heart.

OPINION: 5/5

I loved this book so much, and didn’t want it to end. Charley is an incredibly complex character who keeps you rooting for her, despite her all-too-human imperfections……..love is complex, adult parent-child relationships are hard, grief is brutal, and all mothers feel like they aren’t doing enough for their children. Charley’s brother Ralph Angel is desperately unlikable, but Baszile managed the almost-impossible of eliciting just a tiny bit of sympathy for him just when I wanted him GONE from the story. The setting of the tropical cane fields of Louisiana was perfect – both foreign and all-too American, as Charley experienced the southern racism her father had been so desperate to flee in his youth. Highly recommend this book.

I purchased this book at a local bookstore.

The Forever Summer by Jamie Brenner (Little, Brown & Co – April 25, 2017)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION: 

The discovery of long-buried secrets brings three generations of women together to Cape Cod for the summer homecoming of a lifetime.

Marin Bishop has always played by the rules, and it’s paid off: on the cusp of thirty she has a handsome fiancé, a prestigious Manhattan legal career, and her father’s hard-won admiration. But with one careless mistake at work, Marin suddenly finds herself unemployed and alone. Before she can summon the courage to tell her parents, a young woman appears, claiming to be Marin’s half-sister. Seeking answers, Marin agrees to join her on a soul-searching journey to Cape Cod, to meet the family she didn’t even know she had.

As the summer unfolds at her grandmother’s beachside B&B, it becomes clear that her half-sister’s existence is just the first in a series of truths that will shake Marin’s beliefs–in love, and in her own identity–to the core. Filled with shocking revelations, heartfelt romance, and resilient women banding together against the most unexpected twists of fate, THE FOREVER SUMMER is an emotionally resonant page-turner, and a delicious escape for any season.

OPINION: 4/5

Beach read alert! “The Forever Summer” has all of the qualities I require for addition to my “beach read” list ~ a group of women, family, a beach, an old beach house, a charming beach community, some sort of romance, some sort of drama, and a little sadness to cut the sugar factor. This is the time of year I look forward to all winter long – the release of the next installments from my favorite “beachy” authors ~ Elin Hilderbrand, Jane Green, Mary Alice Munroe, Jill Mansell, and many more. Jamie Brenner has officially been added to this list! This book brings some added complexity that make “The Forever Summer” much more than fluff, and the grief storyline (not spoiling it!) will definitely tug at your heart and make you wipe away tears. Sure, there are a few “really?” parts, but I’m the queen of suspending disbelief and rolling with a storyline, so I was able to shrug those off and enjoy the intent of the author. Highly enjoyed this book, and look forward to many more books from Jamie Brenner! And I will also be going back and reading “The Wedding Sisters” because somehow in the rush of 2016, I completely missed it. Go ahead and order this one and stick it right into your beach bag for the summer.

I received a digital ARC of this title for review – all opinions are my own.


Find me on Goodreads for ALL of the middle grade, YA and adult books I read. All of my picture book reviews are on my Instagram ~ would love to see you there as well!

Adult Reads and Reviews for March 2017

I may be a school librarian, but I read a LOT of adult fiction too! Here is a recap of just some of my adult reading in March 2017 – see below for my thoughts on each book:

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IF NOT FOR YOUDebbie Macomber (digital advance reader copy)

I have been in love with the worlds of Debbie Macomber for decades now (have read every single title), and her newest novel If Not for You does not disappoint. This is the third book in the “New Beginnings” series and I always like when there are continuing characters but with a completely new storyline. These stories are my book equivalent to savoring a chai latte while curled up on the couch under a quilt with my dog’s head in my lap ~ sweet and safe and warm and happy. This book may be third in a series,  but if you don’t want to start with book one, it will stand alone just fine! And yes, there is a happy ending ~ that’s what I rely on and need with a Macomber book ~ love and happiness.

BEHIND HER EYES Sarah Pinborough (public library book)

I honestly can’t even review this book. Seriously. All I can say is that you need to read it to understand how mind-bending it is. Pinborough has thrown out all the “you can’t do that!” instructions with how to plot a novel and just runs with it. And with our BRAINS. I hated all the characters but couldn’t put it down!

THE CIRCLE Dave Eggers (Audible audiobook)

This book was originally published four years ago, but the technology and Big Brother themes are still scarily relevant in 2017. I’m so glad I experienced the book before watching the forthcoming movie.

THE TEA GIRL OF HUMMINGBIRD LANELisa See (digital advance reader copy)

I was enthralled by this story, as I have been by all of See’s books. Kirkus calls this a “riveting exercise in fictional anthropology” which is an excellent way of describing the nature of the writing. If you are looking for a fun, frothy read, this isn’t it. If you are looking for an incredibly well-researched history of tea + the history of a cultural minority in China + a lesson in foreign adoption, you’ve found the perfect book. The only reason I gave this 4 instead of 5 stars on Goodreads is that the ending was just a bit too abrupt for me, but other than that, I absolutely loved it. There is an lengthy and compelling author’s note at the end of the book with a long list of further reading. Goodreads has a new interview with See which also gave good background on the story and her motivation for writing it. For even more insight on See’s research, check out this video from Simon and Schuster.

THE EDUCATION OF WILLPatricia McConnell (Audible audiobook)

As a border collie lover and a fellow Wisconsinite, I was ecstatic to find this newest book from Patricia McConnell. I had listened to her for years on the Wisconsin Public Radio show “Calling All Pets” so was already familiar with her work in animal behavior. I wasn’t sure quite what to expect from this book, as it was titled a “mutual memoir” and the blurb referenced the author’s personal traumas. I was shocked and saddened to read of the events of the author’s life that led to her emotional struggles, but heartened to hear how her relationships with her dogs, in particular her border collies Luke and Will helped her work through her healing process, along with very extensive therapy. I loved hearing about all of the work she does with her border collies and sheep herding as well as the information about border collies and dogs in general. As a dog owner, a lot of the behavioral translations were very helpful, and I could relate so closely to her accounts of living in the countryside of Wisconsin with her dogs. TRIGGER WARNINGS: I need to add trigger warnings for sexual abuse of a child and also acquaintance rape because I was a bit jarred to be listening to the audiobook and have these topics brought up fairly abruptly – if a reader with a history of these began this book not knowing these topics would be discussed in fairly graphic detail it might be emotionally difficult. These topics are a HUGE part of the book, as the theme of the book is working through her traumas while helping her border collie Will through his own traumas. I just want to make sure no reader goes into this book thinking it’s just about dogs.

OUR SHORT HISTORYLauren Grodstein (digital advance reader copy)

Oh, the tears. I spent the last 10% of this book trying to read through the tears dropping onto my Kindle, but I just couldn’t stop reading. I inhaled this book in just 2 sittings and it tore at my heart. It gets to the very core of motherhood and womanhood and the very essence of life and just needs to be read. The letter-style makes it incredibly fast reading and impossible to put down. Highly highly recommend.

THE IDEA OF YOUAmanda Prowse (digital advance reader copy)

A compelling story of the agony of miscarriage and complexity of being a stepparent. I was sucked into the book, constantly hoping for a happy ending and completely surprised by the twist toward the end. The characters were well-developed and the pace was fast.

DAUGHTERS OF THE BRIDESusan Mallery (public library book)

I can always count on Susan Mallery for a happy ending! I loved the new characters in this book and the hotel setting was so much fun. A perfect frothy read to cuddle up with.

THE HOUSE FOR HAPPY MOTHERSAmulya Maladi (Audible audiobook)

I listened to the Audible audio version of this book – it had excellent narration and the account of surrogate motherhood in India told through 2 different perspectives (surrogate and biological mother) was absolutely fascinating to me. I loved learning more about surrogacy and Indian culture. There is a note on the author’s website about the background on the topic and why she chose to write this book – I found it very interesting.  I will definitely be looking for more books by this author!

UPDATE: And a last minute finish for March after I first published this!

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Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (Book of the Month Club pick for February)

Three words: quiet, powerful, dignified – this story will stay with me for a long, long time. I am now spurred to do more reading on the treatment of Koreans in Japan and will also be reading Free Food for Millionaires by the same author.