October 2018 Book Review {Part Two}

Good morning friends!

Today I’m wrapping up the reviews for the books I read in October – if you missed Part One be sure to check it out here.

October 2018 Part Two

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

The Alice Network

Charlie St. Clair is a college girl in search of her cousin who went missing in France in WWII. Her search leads her to Eve Gardiner, a former WWI spy harboring bitterness and regret over long ago happenings within the spy organization known as The Alice Network. Charlie and Eve (along with Eve’s hired helper, a Scottish man named Finn) set off to France to try to discover the truth of what really happened to those they’ve known. The more information they learn, the more entwined their two separate stories and searches become.

So first off, I am a historical fiction junkie. Give me historical fiction about an obscure female heroine from WWI and I am ALL over it. I absolutely loved reading about The Alice Network and devoured information about the real Louise de Bettignies and her story on Wikipedia after finishing this novel. I enjoyed the dynamic between Charlie, Eve, and Finn and thought the characters came to life throughout. That being said, the stories alternated between Eve’s WWI experience and Charlie’s post-WWII quest and I often found myself hoping perspectives would shift so things picked up. Some parts went too slowly for me and the book seemed a bit long. I kept wanting to find out more information and the slow reveals and little hints were just tantalizing. Eve’s chapters were fascinating but I wasn’t as into Charlie’s stories. I found her equations (a strange mental game she plays) unnecessary and boring and her backstory wasn’t as interesting to me. However, I was eager to find out how Eve and Charlie’s stories were connected and as truths came to light I became very invested in how things would turn out. Overall, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it, but it probably could have been a little condensed.

The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

The Summer Wives

In general, I love Beatriz Williams and I really enjoy her Schuyler family stories. Sometimes they connect with one another and have overlapping characters, but this book 100% stands on it’s own. This novel is set on Winthrop Island, a small New England island where the community is comprised of the wealthy summer Families and the working-class Portuguese population who live there year-round. The plot is divided into three different time periods (1930, 1951, and 1969) and events that happened over the course of the summers in each of those years. While the narrators and time periods change, I didn’t find it hard to keep the story lines straight and understand events and how everything connected. (In fact, I followed it almost too well and figured out where the plot was going around page 150, which was a little disappointing because I like to be surprised). I loved the characters, the setting, and most of the plot line, although I will say that there was a lot of unnecessary rated-R content that took away from the story for me. There were also a few times, particularly with the 1969 timeline, where I felt like the story dragged a little but for the most part I was drawn in and intrigued by how the individual stories were woven together. Overall, I thought this was a great read!

Force of Nature by Jane Harper
Force of Nature.jpg

Back in May, I read The Dry and was told that Harper had another book following the same main character so I immediately added it to my reading list. In this novel, Aaron Falk is working on a big money laundering case when his key contact within the company, Alice Russell, goes missing on a corporate retreat in the isolated Australian wilderness. The four other women she was in the woods with all return together and each remembers things that happened slightly differently. The story is told through Falk’s present investigations/the search for Alice and flashbacks alternating points of views from the women in the wilderness. One thing that Harper does really well in her books is to describe the scenery so well that it becomes like an actual character in her stories. I could feel the claustrophobia of being surrounded by thick bushland, I could imagine how turned around and scared I would have become had I been lost in this vast wilderness. I felt the paranoia of the women in the woods as their panic levels rose and feral instincts kicked in. As the story twisted and turned, Harper dropped enough small tidbits that I formed various ideas of how things might play out but I was still surprised by the final turn of events. I do wish the author would dive a little more into Falk’s personal life, because I love reading about his character and she doesn’t spend a lot of time on it; nonetheless, it was an exciting thriller without being too creepy and I flew through it. I recommend it, but I suggest reading The Dry first because there are a few tiny mentions of that plot in this story (plus it is just a fantastic read)!

Have you read any of these books? What were your thoughts?

Advertisements

August 2018 Book Review

Hi friends!

It’s time for another summer reading list book review. Today I’m reviewing the books that I read in August – and without further ado, here we go!

August Book Review

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Girl Wash Your Face

This book has certainly been making the rounds on social media lately and while I had never heard of Rachel Hollis before, I had a ton of people tell me how much they absolutely loved this book so I was excited to read it. I went in with really high expectations and while it wasn’t OMG-earth-shattering from start to finish for me, I did enjoy it. Each chapter in this book is dedicated to a lie the author used to believe that got in the way of her happiness (i.e. “I’ll start tomorrow,” “I’m not a good mom”) and how she worked through that lie to no longer believe it to be true. There were some amazing chapters that really spoke to me and gave me a lot to think about (one section in particular felt like it was written specifically for me) and there were other chapters that didn’t resonate much with me at all. I liked the author’s conversational writing style and I appreciated her insight on things like motherhood, self-worth and self-care. I feel like there are a lot of quote-worthy nuggets in there that are good for daily inspiration or a pick-me-up. I did think it was weird that it’s marketed as a Christian book but didn’t have much reference to how the author’s faith shaped her life and instead was a “you are in charge of you” message. Just something to be aware of if you’re thinking this book will read more like a devotional (it doesn’t).  Even so, I enjoyed this book, gained some wisdom and encouragement from it, and recommend it.

An American Marriage by Tayari JonesAn American Marriage

Celestial and Roy are recently married and starting their life out with big dreams for their future in Atlanta. Unfortunately, they travel to visit Roy’s family in Louisiana and while there, Roy is accused of a crime he did not commit and sentenced to 12 years in jail.  It is hard to put into words how I feel about this book. It is very well written; the characters are vividly described and you really feel for the them and the situation they find themselves in. It covers many thought-provoking topics: the injustice of racial profiling and prejudice in the criminal justice system, the impact of a wrongful conviction on the accused and everyone close to him, how fragile marriage can be if a couple is separated, what loyalty means and whether it’s fair to ask for (and if so, for how long). There are some really hard, heavy moments and tough choices made throughout the book that made it depressing for me to read at times. It just made me so sad and frustrated to think about how things “could have been” without this wrongful conviction. But then, isn’t that the point? The fact that I felt that way is because I was drawn deeply into the story and felt for each one of the characters and so wanted things to turn out well for them.  I do think it’s a remarkable piece of writing and worth checking out!

All the Beautiful Girls by Elizabeth J. Church

All the Beautiful Girls

Lily Decker is orphaned at eight years old and sent to live with her aunt and uncle. Life is less than ideal with them and she finds solace in dancing. When she is older, Lily leaves her tiny hometown with all the bad memories, changes her name to Ruby Wilde, and moves to Las Vegas in the 1960’s where she tries to make it as a dancer but instead becomes a showgirl. I happened to see this book on a shelf at the library and the premise sounded interesting so I checked it out. Honestly, this book wasn’t for me. Lily’s childhood circumstances are very disturbing to read about at times. I was so happy for her when she finally left her hometown and I became pretty interested in the story with Ruby’s transformation and efforts to make it in Vegas; however, as her story continues, things spiraled downhill for me again and I stopped enjoying the book once more. I really don’t want to say more for fear of spoiling something in the plot. The middle third of this book was about the only part I really enjoyed reading, so overall this is not a book I recommend.  (TRIGGER WARNING: I think it’s important to note that if you do decide to read this book, there are some pretty difficult moments with sexual abuse and assault.)

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Truly Madly Guilty

Ugh. I was SO disappointed by this book! I typically love Moriarty’s work but this one was a miss for me. The title makes it seem like it will be super dramatic and gripping but in reality, I felt like it was about 200 pages too long and went along at a snail’s pace. The story alternates between the perspectives of six different adults (three couples), some of whom are longtime friends and others mere acquaintances,  who were present at a barbecue where something happened . . . but you don’t find out what exactly happened for a l-o-n-g time. The chapters jump back and forth between the day of the barbecue and the present time to show the drastic difference in relationships then vs. now and how every character wishes the barbecue hadn’t happened. I think the intent was to build suspense and make you wonder what shocking thing could have possibly happened but it just made me feel impatient and disinterested. This story is not plot-driven so it hinges on character development and the reader connecting with and caring about the characters, and its redeeming qualities and bright spots just didn’t make up for the fact that I was mostly bored and just wanted it to be over. I recommend checking out one of Moriarty’s other works, Big Little Lies, The Husband’s Secret, The Hypnotist’s Love Story, instead.

It feels weird to end on such a dud of a book, but never fear, the September book review is only a week away and I have some fantastic reads to discuss! Stay tuned!

July 2018 Book Review {Part Two}

Happy Friday! It’s time for another round up of some of the books I finished this summer. Because I was able to get through so many books in July, I have broken up July’s review into two parts. If you missed Part One, be sure to check it out here.

July Book Review Pt 2

Let’s get started!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant

Eleanor Oliphant is a quirky, lonely individual. She struggles with social interactions and has mysterious things in her past that have greatly impacted her, although we don’t initially know what those things are. The book journeys with her as she navigates new friendships and tries to find love.  Here’s the thing. I started this book knowing it was on the NYT Bestseller list and in Reese Witherspoon’s book club. My expectations before reading one single word were sky high for this to be a blow-me-away amazing book and it just fell short of that category. I felt that it started off pretty slow and even boring for the first several chapters. There is a ton of detail about really mundane parts of Eleanor’s life and I started to get annoyed with it all, particularly because I wasn’t connecting with, and therefore caring about, Eleanor. For those of you who read my review on The Rosie Project, you know how much I loved the protagonist Don and, despite their similar quirks, Eleanor is not as charming or funny as he is. However, around 40% of the way through, the tides turned and Eleanor began to endear herself to me. The story really picks up and I began to root for her. I thoroughly enjoyed the second half of the book and was especially satisfied with how everything wrapped up. I would say that despite the slow start in warming up to Eleanor, I did enjoy this book and would recommend it!

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

My Grandmother Asked Me

This was my first book by this author and I love his writing style! This story follows a little girl named Elsa and is primarily centered around the apartment building where she lives. It has a fascinating way of weaving in and out of a fairy tale world created for Elsa by her wonderfully kooky grandmother. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, so I’ll just say I found this book to be a charming little piece of literary magic and I am excited to read more by this author. I absolutely recommend it!

The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve

The Stars are Fire.jpg

I happened to see this novel on a shelf as I was walking to the checkout at my library and I knew it had to be added to my stack. I’ve read The Pilot’s Wife and Stella Bain by this author and both were so good! So knowing nothing but the fact that I love this author, this book came home with me. It follows a young mother, Grace, who has a fairly unhappy marriage in Maine in 1947. A devastating wildfire comes to her little town and Grace and her best friend Rosie are left to try to save themselves and their children as their husbands go off to fight the fire. In the aftermath of the fire, Grace has to rally every ounce of her inner strength to help her family survive and thrive even when some really tragic and frustrating events take place. I really liked this book! Grace is a character that you just want to cheer on as she finds strength and freedom that she never thought was possible. I recommend checking it out (as well as Shreve’s other books)!

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

The Wife Between Us

I don’t know how to give any sort of synopsis to this book without spoilers, so I will just say it’s about a woman and how she’s coping (or not coping) with her ex-husband’s new love. I love a good psychological thriller but this one felt a little less than thrilling. I think the overall story line is promising and there are several twists; however, I guessed the “major” twist about 20 pages before it happened which was disappointing. It made the big moment basically just a confirmation of what I already knew. I will say that there were some other twists that I did not see coming, so it was enough to keep me pretty engaged the whole way through. Overall I thought it tried too hard to be shocking and is not my favorite psychological thriller by any means, but it’s a good option if you’re looking for one that isn’t so creepy it’ll keep you up at night with the lights on.

And that’s a wrap on my July books! Have you read any of these books? What were your thoughts?

July 2018 Book Review {Part One}

Hello and Happy Friday! I am still catching up on my summer book reviews and July was a BIG month for my reading list. Thanks to a road trip to Canada with my parents and grandparents (hello lots of willing baby-watchers!), I got through eight books. Rather than one huge mega post, I’ve broken up July into two posts.

July Book Review Part One

So here’s part one of my July book reviews!

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Dear Ijeawele

This book is a short, quick read that my sister recommended to me. Just because it’s short doesn’t mean it doesn’t pack a big punch – this book makes several thought-provoking points and I found myself nodding along often. The author has so many wise words but is very relatable and never sounds overly preachy. The overarching message is: everyone deserves respect and equality and everyone matters. While it only took me 45 minutes to read, after I finished this book I called my sister and we spent an hour talking about it. Whether you are a parent or not, I think this is an important work that should be on your reading list.

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Mudbound

This book was recommended to me by a fellow lover of historical fiction. In post-WWII Mississippi, Laura has moved to a farm with her husband and children and it is not at all what she expected. Chapters mainly alternate between Laura’s perspective and those of two men working on the farm, her brother-in-law and a black sharecropper’s son, who have both returned from the war to very different worlds. This book absolutely hooked me.  It covers such heavy topics that it feels weird to me to say it was a great book – in truth, it wasn’t always enjoyable to read and made me feel sick to my stomach at times. But it was a great book because the author writes in such a way that the characters come alive and you feel invested in their story so when tragic things happen, your heart breaks for them. This book was very well-written and gives a haunting glimpse into life in the harsh 1940’s South.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere

It feels like I have seen this book everywhere this summer and I can completely understand all the buzz. In this novel, the seemingly perfect suburb Shaker Heights is forever changed by the arrival of an artist and her daughter and before long, the community is divided over a very public custody battle involving the adoption of a Chinese-American baby. There are many little stories within this story and different characters find themselves in various intriguing situations. I often asked myself “what would I do if this were me?” and found no perfect answers. I wish I had read this as part of a book club or something where I could have discussed other perspectives of the different scenarios in detail as they played out. I really enjoyed this one and would highly recommend it!

On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins

On Second Thought

Two sisters find themselves with abrupt ends to their romantic relationships and they come to rely on each other in the aftermath and start to move on with their lives. I have read and enjoyed other books by Kristan Higgins so I was excited to dive into this one. Overall the book was entertaining but I did think it got a little slow at times. I enjoyed the alternating narration between the two sisters and I was delighted to find that there were some recurring minor characters from another Higgins book I loved (If You Only Knew). I came to love the characters (except one who absolutely drove me crazy but that was obviously Higgins’ intent) and I was satisfied with how everything wrapped up. While this isn’t my favorite Higgins book, I enjoyed it and would recommend it!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?