Great Reads

Hieroglyphics by Jill McCorkle – Expected out June 9

book
Publish Date:
6
/9/2020
Author: 
Jill McCorkcle
Started: 5/13/20
Finished:
5/14/20
Pages:
320
Rating:
⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary:“Jill McCorkle has long been one of our wryest, warmest, wisest storytellers. In Hieroglyphics, she takes us on through decades, through loss, through redemption, and lands in revelation and grace. As always with McCorkle, the story feels so effortless and true that we might well miss what a high-wire act she’s performing. But make no mistake: She’s up there without a net, she never misses a step, and it’s spectacular.” —Rebecca Makkai, Pulitzer Prize finalist for The Great Believers

Lil and Frank married young, launched into courtship when they bonded over how they both—suddenly, tragically—lost a parent when they were children. Over time, their marriage grew and strengthened, with each still wishing for so much more understanding of the parents they’d lost prematurely.

Now, after many years in Boston, they have retired in North Carolina. There, Lil, determined to leave a history for their children, sifts through letters and notes and diary entries—perhaps revealing more secrets than Frank wants their children to know. Meanwhile, Frank has become obsessed with what might have been left behind at the house he lived in as a boy on the outskirts of town, where a young single mother, Shelley, is just trying to raise her son with some sense of normalcy. Frank’s repeated visits to Shelley’s house begin to trigger memories of her own family, memories that she’d rather forget. Because, after all, not all parents are ones you wish to remember.

Hieroglyphics reveals the difficulty of ever really knowing the intentions and dreams and secrets of the people who raised you. In her deeply layered and masterful novel, Jill McCorkle deconstructs and reconstructs what it means to be a father or a mother, and what it means to be a child piecing together the world all around us, a child learning to make sense of the hieroglyphics of history and memory.

My Review:

How could I be only 42 pages in and be so heartbroken? Already at this point I recognized how bittersweet life really is. I felt immediately connected to the characters but longed for their everlasting life. Although their lives have tragedy, their day-to-day life seemed somewhat normal. Remembering every day occurrences and longing for them is what broke my heart so quickly. It felt like I was watching an old movie reel knowing it was about to be cut off and longing for it to keep going. I felt sad and didn’t want to continue to put myself through the sadness but knew that the characters’ lives were not really all that sad but just a normal life playing from beginning to end.

The author’s writing is so beautiful and this book is the true definition of modern literary fiction. Although there was no plot to find, this character driven book was much more than that. It’s a story of broken relationships and hardship that I felt truly compelling and heartfelt.

I whipped through the first half of the book and then things slowed down for me. I felt like the repetitiveness at that point was doing more harm than good and it’s ultimately why I ended up rating it 3 stars instead of the 4 that I believed I was going to give it at the start of my read.

This book is definitely a book I will remember for a while and I feel like it really pulled at my heart. I recommend this read for sure.

Great Reads

The Jane Austen Society – ARC Out Tomorrow! May 26

book
Publish Date:
5
/26/2020
Author: 
Natalie Jenner
Started:
5/12/20
Finished:
5/13/20
Pages:
220
Rating:
⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary:
Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.

My Review:

Oh my heart! First things first, as an English Literature major, you’d think I would have read Jane Austen in my time. When I was a kid, I attempted Pride and Prejudice and just didn’t continue. I have yet to read any Jane Austen even though I am well aware of her literary accomplishments. That didn’t take away from this book. There were some points where I didn’t necessarily know the character or quotation from one of her works but I was still able to understand it.

Let me just say, I really struggled at first to get through this. I was struggling, felt defeated, and didn’t want to push through but with most of my reads, I usually do not abandon a book! I loved reading about Mimi as a character and her chapters but they were few and far between. About 130 pages in, it was just BAM I LOVE THIS. I needed to know all the details and wanted so much for everything to work out for our characters. I think that’s around when Mimi becomes a main staple in the book and she really did it for me.

The book is really cute and I think if you love Jane Austen, you will LOVE this book. If you aren’t a Jane Austen fan, you will still appreciate and love the book! It’s a slow burn (at least it was for me) so be ready to take some time to get into it. This isn’t necessarily a life-changing or fast read but it was a great palette cleanser.

By the end of the book, I felt connected to each of the characters. They each were deserving of what they longed for and I felt like their goodness shined through so bright. They were wonderful and quaint. The small-town relationships left me longing for a simpler life (not quarantine simple) and I felt like this book showcased those times wonderfully even a different country.

I recommend this read! This has made me want to go back and discover Jane Austen. The characters’ love for her is so convincing and beautiful!

Great Reads

Spin by B. John Gully

img_4814
Publish Date: 6/18/19
Author:  B. John Gully
Started: 8/12/19
Finished: 8/13/19
Pages: 96
Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary:

In the midst of an election, a career politician finds that he is unable to sleep at night. The bags under his eyes are becoming increasingly noticeable as he yawns his way through interviews. His eight-year-old daughter seems to be mimicking his poor sleep habits, but to her, staying up late is as cool as it gets. The current trend in politics is an age of spin. If one is not careful, they may spin so much that they find it hard to rest. 

My Review:

This.was.so.funny! Being in the book community, I get a ton of books to read. Many of them are sent from big house publishers, WHICH I LOVE. However, sometimes an opportunity comes up where I get to read something that is self-published and you just think to yourself, “someone should have picked this up!” Spin is just that!

Spin follows a mayor up for re-election and the qualms that follow such a high profile job. It follows what it’s like to be constantly “spinning” in the world of politics and shines light on the perspective of the candidate. 

This book had me laughing out loud countless times! From the second I picked up the book, I was immediately hooked. Gully has a real knack for writing. He was detailed and thorough the entire time without giving me too much information that I found myself skipping lines or paragraphs. No fluff involved! Super descriptive while being straight to the point and I SUPER appreciate that. 

Our characters were real and their relationships valid and believable. I zipped through the book. So why my four star rating for something that I loved? It’s just that! I loved it and wanted so much more! The book is short and sweet and I wanted more and more! Gully set this story up so well that he could have gone on! But, I get it. This was a snapshot of the life of a politician spinning and that’s what was accomplished. I just wish I could have gone on and read more about lives of the characters I grew so attached to after our unique conclusion. 

This is an awesome debut and I honestly hope that Gully gets around to writing more. More about these characters, or even a completely different premise and book, I’ll be lined up to read it! Take a chance and read an independently published book! It’s not something we get around to sometimes and this one was so well worth it. 

Great Reads

ARC REVIEW OUT TOMORROW – A Stranger on the Beach by Michele Campbell

michele campbell
Publish Date:
7/23/19
Author: 
Michele Campbell
Started:
6/1/19
Finished:
6/3/19
Pages:
352
Rating:⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for sending me a copy of this to read and review before publication. All opinions are my own.

Goodreads Summary:

Her spectacular new beach house, built for hosting expensive parties and vacationing with the family she thought she’d have. But her husband is lying to her and everything in her life is upside down, so when the stranger, Aiden, shows up as a bartender at the same party where Caroline and her husband have a very public fight, it doesn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary.

As her marriage collapses around her and the lavish lifestyle she’s built for herself starts to crumble, Caroline turns to Aiden for comfort…and revenge. After a brief and desperate fling that means nothing to Caroline and everything to him, Aiden’s obsession with Caroline, her family, and her house grows more and more disturbing. And when Caroline’s husband goes missing, her life descends into a nightmare that leaves her accused of her own husband’s murder.

My Review:

This was my second Campbell book and I had some issues with it. I did enjoy it and thought that it was creepy at times but I wanted more from it. My issue with it is that it seemed like two different books to me. Although everything connected, I felt as if after Caroline disappears, the entire novel changes into a completely different book. I didn’t feel as invested at that point even though I had just reached the major turning point. It became somewhat predictable for me and I started to pull much of the plot together. Aiden was super unreliable as a character and I figured that the story couldn’t just rely on him creepy self. I have an unpopular opinion here and I can see why so many readers are giving high praises for this. It just didn’t work as well for me really due to the lack of cohesiveness I felt the story had. I also felt like the author could have given us more into Caroline’s husband’s life and less of Aiden and Caroline herself. That could have helped as I feel like there were some situations that were answered but just a bit cloudy for me. I still finished this read super fast and will pick up Campbell’s future works. For me, this one just left me wanting more.

Great Reads

A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson – OUT TODAY!

worpress covers.jpg
Publish Date:
 6/25/19 
Author:
M.T. Eddvardsson
Started: 6/4/19
Finished:
6/10/19
Pages:
400
Rating:
⭐⭐⭐

A huge thank you to Celadon books for sending me a copy to read and review!

Goodreads Summary:

M.T. Edvardsson’s A Nearly Normal Family is a gripping legal thriller that forces the reader to consider: How far would you go to protect the ones you love? In this twisted narrative of love and murder, a horrific crime makes a seemingly normal family question everything they thought they knew about their life—and one another.

Eighteen-year-old Stella Sandell stands accused of the brutal murder of a man almost fifteen years her senior. She is an ordinary teenager from an upstanding local family. What reason could she have to know a shady businessman, let alone to kill him?

Stella’s father, a pastor, and mother, a criminal defense attorney, find their moral compasses tested as they defend their daughter, while struggling to understand why she is a suspect. Told in an unusual three-part structure, A Nearly Normal Familyasks the questions: How well do you know your own children? How far would you go to protect them?

My Review:

Well, if you’ve been following ANY books lately, it is impossible for you to have not seen this one popping up everywhere. Everyone is loving it and it’s not hard to understand why! I really enjoyed it and loved that the book was told in three sections from Stella and a section for each of her parents. This is a pretty quick read and interesting but I had my own issues with it.

Morally, I did not quite understand the outcome and it’s acceptance from all parties involved. A good friend of mine and I both felt this why while discussing it. I felt like all of the characters were unlikable besides the father whereas my good fiend abhored the father as well (to each their own, right?). But the true reason why it did not get four stars for me is because the buildup was slow and I just felt a little underwhelmed after finishing it. I wanted more crazy and although it was indeed crazy, I was just wanting something bigger. I felt like I saw most of all of it coming and that’s a let down for me. This read as a drama in most places more than a courtroom thriller and that was my issue. I wanted more courtroom and murder suspense.

HOWEVER, so many people are loving it and I can see why! I would definitely recommend the book and may even like to reread it to catch things I did not catch on to before. I’d also like to reread it and be more open  to reading it as a family drama than just a courtroom thriller that I wanted. I feel like the way you anticipate a book could seriously make or break a book and that happened to me here. I’m happy to have read it and will definitely recommend it in the future to friends! Just be weary that there are quite a few triggers such as sexual assault in this one.

 

 

Great Reads

Next Level Basic: The Definitive Basic Bitch Handbook by Stassi Shroeder

michele campbell.jpg
Publish Date:
4/16/19
Author:
 Stassi Shroeder
Started:
6/10/19
Finished:
6/10/19
Pages: 
240
Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary:

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER 

Discover how to embrace your best basic self in this laugh-out-loud funny guidebook from the breakout star of Bravo’s hit reality show Vanderpump Rules, perfect for fans of the relatable and entertaining books by The Betches and Andi Dorfman. 

Millions of Vanderpump Rules viewers and podcast listeners know Stassi Schroeder as a major defender of Basic Bitch rights. There’s nothing more boring than people who take themselves too seriously or think that you have to be pretentious to be cool. Stassi champions the things that many of us are afraid to love publicly for fear of being labeled basic: lattes, pugs, bubbly cocktails, millennial pink, #OOTD (outfit of the day, obvs), astrology, hot dogs, the perfect pair of Louboutins, romantic comedies…the list goes on and on.

This book is for people tired of pretending they would rather see a Daniel Day-Lewis movie about sewing or read War and Peacethan watch a Saw marathon or read…well, this book!

In Next Level Basic, the reality star, podcast queen, and ranch dressing expert gives you hilarious and pointed lessons on how to have fun and celebrate yourself, with exclusive stories from her own life and on the set of Vanderpump Rules. From her very public breakups to her most intimate details about her plastic surgery, Stassi shares her own personal experiences with her trademark honesty—all with the hope you can learn something from them.

My Review:

I couldn’t expect anything else from Stassi! Is this an instant classic? No. But it’s hilarious and embodies her spirit, attitude, and all of the sarcasm I’ve grown to expect from her. You won’t take home a life lesson, unless you want to be reminded that Birkenstocks are never in style (oops) or that Universal Studio’s serves possibly the best hot dog around; BUT, did you expect something different from this book? If so, shame on you! I definitely didn’t pick this up looking for a serious or life altering nonfiction read. It’ checked off my boxes though.

I could literally imagine Stassi’s voice the entire time reading the book and for what it was, it was highly entertaining and funny! I enjoyed it and if you’re a Vanderpump fan, I’m sure you’ll be a fan of this as well! Bravo (no pun intended)!

Great Reads

The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin

book
Publish Date:
2/13/18
Author:
 Kimmery Martin
Started:
5/10/19
Finished:
5/14/19
Pages:
 348
Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary:

Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by Southern Living, Elite Daily, and Writer’s Digest 

A debut novel set against a background of hospital rounds and life-or-death decisions that pulses with humor and empathy and explores the heart’s capacity for forgiveness…

Zadie Anson and Emma Colley have been best friends since their early twenties, when they first began navigating serious romantic relationships amid the intensity of medical school. Now they’re happily married wives and mothers with successful careers–Zadie as a pediatric cardiologist and Emma as a trauma surgeon. Their lives in Charlotte, North Carolina are chaotic but fulfilling, until the return of a former colleague unearths a secret one of them has been harboring for years.

As chief resident, Nick Xenokostas was the center of Zadie’s life–both professionally and personally–throughout a tragic chain of events in her third year of medical school that she has long since put behind her. Nick’s unexpected reappearance during a time of new professional crisis shocks both women into a deeper look at the difficult choices they made at the beginning of their careers. As it becomes evident that Emma must have known more than she revealed about circumstances that nearly derailed both their lives, Zadie starts to question everything she thought she knew about her closest friend.

My Review:

First things first, THE COVER! How beautiful is this cover? They really hit it of the park for this and I’m sure this is what drew so many people to read it like myself but this is more than just a pretty face!

This is a book of friendships and forgiveness. I enjoyed both Zadie and Emma (for the most part of the book) and thoroughly enjoyed peeping into their lives as both doctors and mothers. Zadie’s daughter was a beyond hilarious toddler who I absolutely adored. I’m not huge into medical dramas and have never watched Grey’s Anatomy (gasp! I know) but I enjoyed this. Sometimes the medical stuff would get a little in the way but I understood. Zadie as a character is a way better person that I am. She embodies some awesome qualities.

My issue I think was how long it took to get to the actual drama of the story and how quickly it was cleared up. The drama was bubbling the entire time and I was anxious to figure out how it was connected. After reading this, I had some conflicts within myself over it. It’s hard to explain without actually giving away the plot and mystery behind it all.

This book deals with some pretty heavy issues so be cautious.

Great Reads

Drowning Lessons (Red Frog Beach Mystery #1)

book
Publish Date:
5/1/19
Author: 
Rachel Neuburger Reynolds
Started:
5/3/19
Finished:
5/6/19
Pages:
357
Rating:⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to Netgalley and Jeepers Way Press for a copy of this in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Summary:

You are cordially invited to a destination wedding to die for… Welcome to Bocas del Toro, a remote chain of islands off the Caribbean coast of Panama. Five days of glorious sun and lush rainforest await the forty guests celebrating Bridezilla Olivia’s dream wedding—but will a grisly murder sink the catered affair? Before anyone’s got time to start working on a tan, an unfortunate snorkeling accident eliminates a member of the wedding party. Maid of honor Lexie Marino smells trouble, and takes it upon herself to investigate, hoping to solve the case before her bestie’s trip down the aisle gets tropically derailed.
Lexie’s a little too tall, a little too awkward, and a little too brokenhearted, but she’s determined to nail the real killer. Can this unlikely sleuth stay afloat as she’s hit by wave after wave of wildly entertaining characters, including an alpha bride, surfing detectives, and a high school flame long forgotten? You’ll find yourself laughing until the very end of Drowning Lessons, a debut cozy mystery that makes the perfect beach read. Rub in some coconut oil, dangle your feet in the crystal-blue waters of Starfish Beach, and sip a cool drink as Lexie discovers the deductive superpowers she never knew she had. Let the party begin!

This is the first book of five in the Red Frog Beach Mystery Series.

My Review:

Let’s start with a story of myself. Circa 1996, seven year old me, living life at the beach, never have I been anywhere where poisonous frogs have been a thing. I probably just enjoyed my time at the amphibian exhibit at the Cape May zoo. I wake up screaming from a nightmare that I’ve had. Thousands of poisonous frogs chase me into my house located in the New Jersey Pine Barrens (the opposite  of any tropical location) where the jump and crawl upon each other trying to reach me as I’m standing on a wooden chair in my parents’ kitchen. I have no clue why I had this dream but my parents won’t let me live it down. Two years later, my father buys me a Beanie Baby frog that I scream over and won’t accept. (see photo below thanks to Google). I have had this irrational fear of poisonous frogs now for 23 years. I knew I had to give this a read and try to at least validate my fears!

il_340x270.1223952134_51m5

I enjoyed this read! It was less cozy of a mystery than I thought. It contained more scandalous elements than most cozy mysteries ever do and that worked for me. The book was a mystery but also held drama elements as well.  Lexie was a likable character and deserves the reward of the year for being an awesome friend. She is put in situations that I would have lost my mind over and/or told off my friend ten times over. She is not an investigator by any means but somehow ends up pulling off what she needs to after the death of a groomsman during a pre-wedding snorkel activity. I also enjoy how funny Lexie can be and enjoyed many of the humorous scenarios that occur during the read.

My issue with the book was that it could be slow-paced at times. As the first book of the series, there could be more work to be done for readers to discover our character and I do hope that this is why we learned so much about Lexie. I hope that the author continues to use Lexie in this series or it wouldn’t make much sense for some of the background character driven knowledge we gained during the book.

Overall, there is some need for improvement in the series but it was a light-hearted mystery that still reads more than a cozy mystery. I do look forward to more of the series and figuring out the mysteries that Lexie (hopefully) finds herself discovering.

Great Reads

The Mister by E.L. James

book
Publish Date:
4/16/19
Author:
E.L. James 
Started:
5/17/19
Finished:
5/21/19
Pages:
503
Rating:⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary:

London, 2019. Life has been easy for Maxim Trevelyan. With his good looks, aristocratic connections, and money, he’s never had to work and he’s rarely slept alone. But all that changes when tragedy strikes and Maxim inherits his family’s noble title, wealth, and estates, and all the responsibility that entails. It’s a role he’s not prepared for and one that he struggles to face.

But his biggest challenge is fighting his desire for an unexpected, enigmatic young woman who’s recently arrived in England, possessing little more than a dangerous and troublesome past.  Reticent, beautiful, and musically gifted, she’s an alluring mystery, and Maxim’s longing for her deepens into a passion that he’s never experienced and dares not name. Just who is Alessia Demachi? Can Maxim protect her from the malevolence that threatens her? And what will she do when she learns that he’s been hiding secrets of his own?

From the heart of London through wild, rural Cornwall to the bleak, forbidding beauty of the Balkans, The Mister is a roller-coaster ride of danger and desire that leaves the reader breathless to the very last page.

My Review:

Readers expecting this to be like Fifty Shades should tread carefully. It’s not that book but in a way, that was better for me. I literally abhorred Fifty Shades. It was too much sex (I’m not big into sex-filled books) and not enough story. In contrast, this book was more of a story and less sex (even though it is still there). I may be in the minority but because of that, I actually liked it more than Fifty Shades.

There were definitely some cons here. The different POV’s wasn’t the issue but I was confused as to why Alessia’s chapters were in third person. It was almost as if she wasn’t being viewed as  being important which may have been intentional as that was an issue brought up in the book as the help but that was a con for me.

For a 500 page book, you also wouldn’t think that details were skimped out on but for me, there were some conflicting or missing details. Early on in the book, I noticed that some characters were talking about things they should not have even known. I also found Maxim and Alessia’s relationship to have budded oddly quickly. I get that many romance novels have a fast budding relationship but Maxim and Alessia just felt unnatural to me. The physical attraction was strong fast but without that constant sex like in James’ previous, their emotional connection would have been greatly appreciated.

I also have to say it was a little cheesy for me in certain areas. Again, that’s a major romance cliche which may be why I steer away from romance often but in areas, I was literally cringing reading it.

If you read this with an open mind and without the comparisons, you may actually find this isn’t as bad as what others are saying.

Great Reads

May Wrap-Up

I’m still deciding not to set a June TBR. May’s freestyle worked out rather well. I tried out audiobooks for the first time this month! They worked out really well for my long commutes to and from work, having something to listen to while making dinner, and sitting in the tanning bed! I’ll keep to them during those times; however, I think I’ll only stick to nonfiction. I tried two fictions on audiobook. One I put down and one I completely hated the narrator’s voice and expression that it ruined the book for me! Here’s what I finished in the month of May:

Normal People – Review found here

Drowning Lessons (Red Frog Beach Mystery #1) – Review coming soon!

The Grownup

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology – Review coming soon!

Dear Mrs. Bird – Review coming soon!

Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo – Review coming soon!

Queen of Hearts – Review coming soon!

Food: A Love Story – Review coming soon!

Staying Up with Hugo Best – Review coming soon!

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Review coming soon!

The Mister – Review coming soon!

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things! – Review coming soon!

Flowers for Algernon – Review coming soon!

The Proposal – Review coming soon!

Josh and Hazel’s gGuide to Not Dating – Review Coming soon!

I have so many of these reviews written and scheduled but with 14 books read this month and 12 last month, it’s becoming crazy to schedule them!  There would be a review almost every day which is awesome but I’m seriously looking for time just to write them, lol! I promise, you’ll see them!