Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Book Reviews - Must Read Magic!

Y'all, this is one of those quartets where each and every book is a must read. This was such a great quartet. There were strong characters, amazing plots, and incredible twists. I always love when I can find a good "streak" in my reads, and this was so, so much of that.

The Perfect Guests by Emma Raus is a story built around the people associated with Raven Hall in two separate, but connected times. It was a storytelling format I adore in that it was dual timelines focusing on two different women. The first part of the story takes place in 1988. Beth is taken to the mansion as a young girl to be the companion to Nina. She forms a friendship with her, but she's also asked to engage in some family deception which makes her feel a certain kind of way. Then, in 2019, Sallie is a struggling actress who receives a call to be part of an event at Raven Hall. She has no idea why she's been chosen for this role, but decides to go. As each story goes, it seems there might be some connections between now and then. And y'all, I loved how these developed. I knew there was something there, but the slow burn of the fusion was especially well done. Thanks to NetGalley for letting me check out this one!

Lies Like Wildfire by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez was two thrillers in one, and it was just brilliantly done. Hannah and her friends are just having a good time. That is until they spark (literally) a fire - a wildfire that quickly gets out of hand. Hannah is keenly aware of the dangers and impacts of fire as her father is a sheriff. With the fire raging, Hannah and her friends decide to keep the secret between them about what they know happened. However, keeping this secret isn't as easy as it seems, and the guilt and lies start to affect each of them. Then, something else goes down to create even more suspicion. This is also where the second round of thrills begin. This one was some kind of ride y'all. I LOVED how twisty it was and how the lies (and truth) pervaded the whole story. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this September 2021 release!

November 9 by Colleen Hoover is my third book by this author, and y'all, this woman can write a twist. Each book is so well-written, sucks you in, and then something unexpected just hits like whoa. This book focuses on a unique arrangement between two people who meet by chance and make an immediate strong connection. Fallon and Ben meet in a diner the day before Fallon is preparing for a big move. They spend the day together, then make an agreement that meeting on this day (November 9) each year will be their thing. Ben is an author, and he also wants to tell Fallon's story through this connection. This does mean Fallon wonders if Ben's motives are real or if there's something else at play. Y'all, this is one of those twists where my literal jaw dropped. It was that good, and it was just so incredible how this book shapeshifted into multiple genres. This was so far from what I expected in the very best of ways.

Dante and Aristotle Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Saenz is a sequel I've been (impatiently) waiting for because I'm just so darn captivated by the story of Dante and Aristotle. This picks up where the first book left off in that Dante and Aristotle have realized what an incredible connection they have. They've navigated life and adventures as friends and now they're taking on a new adventure of navigating the world in love. Above all else, you should know this book is beautifully written. Dante and Aristotle are characters that the author brings to life in such a wonderful and amazing way. I could tell you the plot, but really what makes me love this series so very much is the humans in the story. This was such an outstanding way to continue this powerful tale. Thanks to NetGalley and S&S Book Club Favorites for the early look at this October 2021 release.

Onto the next ones!

Friday, August 20, 2021

Book Reviews - Complex Characters and Situations

This round had four books each with some kind of complexity, and each type was very, very different.

The Chain by Adrian McKinty was quite the wild ride. I was a little unsure of how I would feel about this one as someone on the cover explained it as "Jaws for parents." As an expectant mom, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go on this journey, but I decided to try it out. Y'a'll, I'm glad I did as this was quite the thriller! The reason for the book's title is there is a literal chain involved. That chain involves kidnapping. Rachel gets a message that her daughter has been kidnapped, and the only way she can get her back is by kidnapping someone else to continue the chain. Rachel is desperate to save her daughter, so like the parents in the chain before her she has to make an impossible choice. More than anything, this book is about the actual chain and figuring out where it started and more importantly how to make it stop. It was such a unique premise, and it kept me reading because I just had to know how it was all going to play out! 

Bernice Buttman, Model Citizen by Niki Lenz was just a sweet little middle grade read I needed after an intense thriller. The story focuses on Bernice who has an unfortunate last name, so she decides to prevent others from making fun of her by being a bully. Then, Bernice moves and is the new kid. With this new opportunity, she decides to give being a good gal a try. It was just a delight to read how Bernice evolves to find not only friends but herself. It's definitely a good one for kids to learn about how people can and do change.

Linked by Gordan Korman was quite the middle grade read. It focuses on a middle school where a swastika has been painted on the school walls. No one knows who is responsible, and the town is shocked that this could happen. Then, more start to appear. Some of the kids decide to take action. They decide they want to educate on why this is a symbol of hate by bringing attention to the devastation of the Holocaust. Throughout, the story is told from a number of different student perspectives, and each is processing what has happened in a different way and is taking a different course of action. I will say that the reveal at the end of what truly happened at the end of this one was especially powerful and provides an incredible learning moment.

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout features a main character unlike any other I've read. Y'all, Olive is something! She's written in this way that is abrasive and somewhat rude, but also caring and insightful. Olive isn't the star of every story, rather her story is told through those of others in her community. Olive has a connection to each of these people, so she is still a common thread throughout, but others are also allowed to take center stage. This was such an incredibly character driven piece, and the way these characters are written is outstanding. I read this for a book club, so actually have read the first Olive book, but after having this introduction I definitely must!

Onto the next ones!

Book Reviews - Thrills and Feels (Again)

Hey, I'm back with another quartet with a duo that focuses on thrills and one that's more feels as tends to happen so very often.

The Comfort Book by Matt Haig was just a wonderful reflective and honest piece from an author who I've come to love through his books, as well as his social media presence. In the social media space, the author focuses on his own mental health journey in an authentic and at times very raw way. This is an expansion of that journey as he shares a collection of what gets him through. It is a combination of reflections, quotes, and just stuff that has brought him (literal) comfort as he's navigated life. This was a quick read, and it's also a book that you could just turn to anyone page when you needed some inspiration and reminder that you're not alone with whatever your struggles might be. 

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry was just wonderful. I love the way this author writes relationships and romance, so I devoured this! The story focuses on Poppy and Alex, two friends since college. Each summer, they take a week of vacation together. Well, they did until things fell apart. The book doesn't immediately reveal what caused the rift and instead focuses on the summers when things were good and also the vacation that's ahead. Poppy has decided to give a vacation with Alex a go one more time to see if they might get things right again. This again was just a delight, as it had just the right amount of cheese coupled with great characters!

Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins is a twisty thriller set on a remote island. Lux and her boyfriend Nico are hired to sail two best friends to their destination. Everyone on the trip is eager for a break, and the reasons why are revealed as the story goes. As it turns out, that remote island they're headed to isn't so remote as there are passengers from another boat there. As you can imagine given the genre, these individuals have some secrets of their own. Relationships get twisty, stuff starts happening, and the island is far, far, FAR from a relaxing escape. Here's the thing y'all, on premise alone, you probably could've guessed this was going to go sideways, so it's really just a matter of how it goes down when literally everyone is hiding something! Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this 2022 release!

That Summer by Jennifer Weiner is a book that just ultimately just didn't land with me. This isn't an instance where I recommend you don't read it, rather it's just me being real with y'all about my own feelings. The premise is there are two women that become connected after one of them inadvertently starts getting emails meant for the other. They have very similar names and emails, so it makes sense it could happen. Rather than just acknowledging the mistake and moving on, the two women connect and form a friendship. Except here's the thing, they may have more of a connection than originally realized, and their connection might not be totally random. It was an interesting premise, especially as the connections were revealed, but again, I just struggled, and I cannot tell y'all more specifics as that would cause me to veer into spoiler territory!

Onto the next ones!

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Book Reviews - Books I Was Destined to Love

Y'all, sometimes you just go into books and know you're going to love them. These are 100% those types of books!

Eight Perfect Hours by Lia Louis was just a treat of a romance novel. It was just a joy of a story, and I absolutely adored it. The story begins with two motorists, Sam and Noelle, who are stranded on a highway in a blizzard. Sam helps Noelle, and in doing this, they realize they have an amazing connection. They spend an incredible eight hours together, and then, they just go their separate ways. At least they think that's what is going to happen. Somehow, they keep running into each other, and that connection is still there. Things just keeping bringing them together, and Sam and Noelle start to wonder what this all means. Again, this was just a delight, and sometimes you need that. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this upcoming September 2021 release!

Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson was always going to be a book I loved. It was truly just a matter of how much. Y'all, this was a story about two high school theatre kids spending a night in NYC. In an unfortunate chain of events, they're without their phones and have to navigate the city and a whole host of challenges. This had all the vibes of an 80s teen comedy, and I'm forever here for that. It was a story that was just so absolutely and completely right up my alley and just gave me so much joy.

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron was such a wild ride of a fairy tale/fantasy story. This is the second book from this genre that I've read by this author, and she is so great in this lane (Additional Plug: Read Cinderella Is Dead!) Briseis has a special gift when it comes to working with plants. When her biological aunt dies, Briseis is left her estate, and her family decides to spend the summer there. Then, weird stuff starts happening. A strange cast of characters shows up, and Briseis does some digging she finds out that there is a complex web to work through. Figuring out what's happened and could happen now falls on Briseis shoulders, and navigating it all is going to be no easy task. This was such a unique premise and tale, and I'm so very ready to keep reading this series!

The Turn of the Silver Wheel by Shawn Keller Cooper is the second in a series about three sorority sisters. There are some connections to their collegiate days, but it's moreso about the women they've each grown into which isn't without lots of challenge and hardship. What I love about this series is the realness with which the stories are told. While fiction, the emotions are raw and authentic. I also appreciate that they cover topics that are heavy, but it's stuff that needs to be talked about and explored! Before diving into this one, you definitely need (and are definitely going to want) to check out Drawing Down the Moon just so you can get to know and (then continue to learn through this one) the captivating stories of these women as individual and sisters through the years. 

Onto the next ones!

Book Reviews - Books You (Literally) Can't Put Down

Y'all,  the first three of these were books that absolutely live up to the hype I'd heard about them. They were ones that I was so captivated by. It's always refreshing when I get an especially good quartet like this!

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson is another book that people have been recommending to me for ages, and I finally read it for my online book club. First of all, why the heck did I wait so long? This one was so good y'all! This focuses on the Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky, specifically Cussy Carter. In addition to being a librarian, Cussy is one of Kentucky's "blue" people. The story is about her work as a librarian, but it's moreso about how she navigates the world, particularly because so many people see her as different. This is absolutely a heartbreaker of a story, but it's also so worth reading given its depth of emotion!

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid was just another masterful storytelling experience by this author. Y'all, she just does such a good job at building stories with multiple complex characters. This is the story of four siblings in the eighties. They gather in Malibu for their sister's end of summer blowout bash. Here's the thing though, they each have something they're carrying, and by something, I mean, some pretty big secrets. These secrets are ones that have the potential to impact another family member pretty significantly. As the night goes on, the party gets wilder, and the secrets start to ooze out, too. This was one I could not put down and breezed through because it was such good drama. I needed to know what happened! If y'all aren't reading this author, you are missing out. This is another gem of a read!

Verity by Colleen Hoover is a book I've been hearing/seeing everywhere, so I decided to check it out. Y'all, what a damn ride. There are twists, and there are TWISTS. And this was a TWIST OF TWISTS. Lowen is a struggling writer who accepts a job from the husband of a well-known author. Lowen is tasked with finishing the books in his wife's series as she is currently in a coma. What Lowen finds isn't just the unfinished books, but the author's personal journals. And y'all, WHOA. I really don't want to give much more than this because this is truly one where the thrills (and chills) are. I will also offer the caveat that there are intense books, and then there's this. It is truly like nothing I've read, and just WHOA. You truly need to buckle up and be ready for one wild ride.

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty was just a really interesting book. Honestly, it just went in so many different directions. It was so many genres in one and so many things happening. Sophie has inherited a house which is a lot, but it's even more given it's the house owned by an aunt of her ex-boyfriend. It's also a lot given it's on an island whose notoriety comes in the unsolved Munro Baby Mystery. Sophie moves to the island and becomes re-engaged with her ex's family and people who each feel a certain kind of way about her inheritance. Additionally, she wants to know more about this mystery that connects to her home. At times, this read like a thriller (and definitely some unexpected twists), at others, it was a family drama, and others it was a love story. Given all the dimensions, it's definitely one that kept me reading.

Onto the next ones! 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Book Reviews - Historical Fiction & All the Feels (Again)

Hey, I read some historical fiction, and some stuff that was emotional, so just another day in the life. . .

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks was quite the middle grade read! This story centers on Zoe in two ways. First, it is about her budding relationship with her father. Zoe doesn't know him as he was sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit when she was young. When she receives an unexpecgted letter from him, she has an opportunity to begin exploring and building that relationship. Zoe is also an aspiring cook and trying to get on a kid's baking reality show. Y'all, that's a lot for anyone to manage, but especially a 12 year old! The story focuses on Zoe's determination to get the truth out about her dad and to also realize her baking dreams. She is driven towards both causes, and it was so amazing to read about such a strong girl on both fronts!

We Are Inevitable by Gayle Forman was one that was bursting with so many feels. It was so, so beautiful, and I just adored the story. Honestly, I just want to leave my review at that. But I will also say it involves a bookstore, so it also reeled me in with that! It definitely takes on some heavy themes, but it does it by centering the impact on the humans involved which adds to its emotional power. Again, I just want to simply say this was just wonderfully written with raw, authentic characters. It's a book that will both break your heart and give you hope which is why it's truly masterful.

Velvet Was The Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia was a beautifully written book. This is my second book by this author, and above all else, she just uses language masterfully to tell stories. That said, this genre isn't really my jam. It was historical noir, and I can honestly say I haven't read one before, but I can appreciate the vibe and experience. The book takes place in 1970s Mexico City, and it's about a woman who wants to know what happened to her neighbor. Along the way, she finds someone else is also looking for her neighbor, and these two start to connect. This is overlaid with the happenings of the times which I honestly knew nothing about. I found it especially fascinating to read at the end about the truth that was in this story. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this recent release. If this genre is something you dig, would guess you'll really like this one.

The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba by Chanel Cleeton was historical fiction centered on a woman I knew nothing about, but loved learning her story. The story focuses on Evangelina Cisneros who is imprisoned at the age of 18. She is passionate about Cuban independence from Spain, and she has many, many others who support her fight. Her story is picked up by a young female journalist in the US. She is trying to make a name for herself, and she sees Evagelina's story as that chance. However, she also realizes how committed she is to giving voice to this woman. Marina Perez is the third women whose story is told, and she joins the cause of freeing Evagelina and advancing her cause. Y'all, this was a fascinating story centering women to recount important historical happenings. I loved learning about people and events I didn't know through such amazing women! Thanks to NetGalley for the look at this recent release!

Onto the next ones!

Book Reviews - Stories That Stay With You

Finding a common thread for this quartet is easy. These are the type of books that stay with you long, long after you finish the last page. They are each absolutely worth reading.

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave was a thriller that I could literally not put down. Y'all, I read it in a day! The story begins with a simple note from a husband to a wife. Hannah knows exactly what, or rather who it's about. But then things get intense. Hannah's husband is nowhere to be found. She's worried, and then, AND THEN, the FBI and US marshals are involved. Hannah's husband is not who she thought he was at all, and Hannah is trying to figure this all out while also trying to figure out where he even is. This was such a ride as Hannah was navigating the emotions of a missing husband as she was also learning she didn't know this man at all. The reveals along the way were just so, so, so good. I was bummed when this one was over because there just weren't any more secrets!

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd was unlike anything I've read. It was so wonderfully brilliant and thought-provoking and emotional and really just all the things. The book centers on Anna - Jesus' wife. The author re-imagines the life of Jesus to include a wife. In doing this, she centers Anna, not Jesus. In other words, this is stories I know, but told in a completely different way. It was such an interesting and powerful experience to read about Jesus as a secondary character and to instead have a woman centered. The story is truly about Anna's quest to find faith and love in a complicated world. I absolutely loved the care the author took to write Anna and really explore her story and struggles. This was just such a captivating read all around! 

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel was a book people have been raving to me about for years, and I finally read it. First of all, I shouldn't have waited this long. Second of all, if you take my recommendation to read it, be ready to be up in your feels. This is the story of a family trying to figure out how to support one another and specifically their youngest child. Rosie and Penn have four boys, and they are confident that their fifth child is going to be a girl, but it's not to be, and they have a fifth boy, Claude. Claude yearns to be a girl and feels he is truly Poppy. With Poppy, the family has to make decisions. This includes who will get to know who Poppy really is. Both keeping and telling this secret has consequences, and the family has to determine which route is best and then deal with those choices. This was such an emotional journey as this family must navigate in the name of care, love, authenticity, and safety.

No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality by Michael J. Fox was just a fascinating reflection. We watch a lot of Family Ties in our house, and I mean A LOT. While we watch it a lot, I'm not as familiar with Michael J. Fox outside of Alex P. Keaton, so thought this new book was the perfect time to learn about how he navigates life. Y'all, this was just such a powerful read. It's emotional and raw, while also being funny and real. It was such an honest window into his life. It was about how he finds the good in each day, but also about how he pushes through the bad. It was truly a portrait of who he is and how he navigates his reality each day to get what he can out of life.

Onto the next ones!

Book Reviews - Love Stories, Feels, Twists and Such

Honestly, at this point, I should just title every other post this, as this is the most common quartet mix. Here's what it was made up of this round!

10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston was just the YA romcom goodness I needed in my life. The story focused on Sophie. Fresh off a breakup and spending the holidays at her grandparents, she decides to put her love life in the hands of others. She agrees to let her extended family to set her up on blind dates - ten to be exact. It's quite the array of dates, and each family member makes very different choices, and some dates are definitely better than others. Along the way, Sophie also finds that she might have had some love in her life all along. Look y'all, this was just so much cheesy, emotional, wonderful goodness. I could see where things might be going, but that just made me want to read more. Sometimes you just need a book that makes you smile, and this was so much of that.

Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim was just a delight of a middle grade novel. It focuses on Yumi who wants to attend a comedy camp hosted by her favorite stand-up comedian. However, her family doesn't support her dreams. She finds a way into the camp (by taking someone else's spot), but it means she has to lie to her family and make them think she's taking a test prep course. Along the way, she starts to build her confidence in herself and her craft. I loved that this explored a girl finding herself with a unique hobby. It also showed how she navigated family expectations to find her way to happiness. 

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo was a novel I first loved because of the format. It was written in verse, and this was just the perfect way to tell the emotional story of two sisters. Camino and Yahala are (literal) countries apart. Camino is in New York, and Yahala is in the Dominican Republic. What they don't realize is that they share a father until he tragically passes away. As the navigate their grief and loss, they each learn that there is someone else who knows how they feel. They also learn that they each knew different sides of their father. While the story is about the secrets their father kept, it's also about figuring out a relationship with someone who comes into your life in an incredibly unexpected way. This one had so many feels, and it was so, so good.

Her Dark Lies by JT Ellison was another book in the subgenre of destination wedding thrillers that I've found my way into lately. The problem with this unexpected subgenre is I inevitably compare and contrast the stories. If I'm being honest (and I obvs am because that's what I do with these reviews), there are other destination wedding thrills I liked better. For me, this was a slow start. I prefer a thriller the sucks me from its first moments, and this one took awhile to get going. The story focuses on the wedding of Claire and Jack. As it goes, both Claire and Jack have some big secrets. This includes some mystery surrounding what really happened to Jack's first wife. Oh, and add a side of some crazy stuff that goes down on the island where the wedding is being held. I did think the big twisty reveal was good, so I was into the thrills by the end. Thanks to NetGalley for the look at this recent release!

Onto the next ones!