3.5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, G, RATING, Read in 2019, Review Book, TLC Book Tours

Review: The Accidentals by Minrose Gwin


The Accidentals coverAbout The Accidentals

• Paperback: 416 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 13, 2019)

Following the death of their mother from a botched backwoods abortion, the McAlister daughters have to cope with the ripple effect of this tragedy as they come of age in 1950s Mississippi and then grow up to face their own impossible choices—an unforgettable, beautiful novel that is threaded throughout with the stories of mothers and daughters in pre-Roe versus Wade America.

Life heads down back alleys, takes sharp left turns. Then, one fine day it jumps the track and crashes.”

In the fall of 1957, Olivia McAlister is living in Opelika, Mississippi, caring for her two girls, June and Grace, and her husband, Holly. She dreams of living a much larger life–seeing the world and returning to her wartime job at a landing boat factory in New Orleans. As she watches over the birds in her yard, Olivia feels like an “accidental”—a migratory bird blown off course.

When Olivia becomes pregnant again, she makes a fateful decision, compelling Grace, June, and Holly to cope in different ways. While their father digs up the backyard to build a bomb shelter, desperate to protect his family, Olivia’s spinster sister tries to take them all under her wing. But the impact of Olivia’s decision reverberates throughout Grace’s and June’s lives. Grace, caught up in an unconventional love affair, becomes one of the “girls who went away” to have a baby in secret. June, guilt-ridden for her part in exposing Grace’s pregnancy, eventually makes an unhappy marriage. Meanwhile Ed Mae Johnson, an African-American care worker in a New Orleans orphanage, is drastically impacted by Grace’s choices.

As the years go by, their lives intersect in ways that reflect the unpredictable nature of bird flight that lands in accidental locations—and the consolations of imperfect return.

Filled with tragedy, humor, joy, and the indomitable strength of women facing the constricted spaces of the 1950s and 60s, The Accidentals is a poignant, timely novel that reminds us of the hope and consolation that can be found in unexpected landings.


REVIEW:

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review; all opinions expressed are my own.

Can we just take a moment to admire that cover? I mean, is it not absolutely gorgeous?! I personally think so and that’s what initially caught my eye about this book (and I am, as a general rule, not a cover person). But then I read the blurb and I was sold. I had a great feeling going into this book.

And for the most part, it definitely lived up to the expectations I had set for it. It made me realize just how thankful I should be for being a woman in the time period that I am now rather than in the 1950s. I mean … just yikes. What women had to go through and deal with during that time period. It’s definitely eye-opening for sure.

However, the book wasn’t entirely perfect. I sometimes felt like it jumped here and there when it could have had better “flow” I guess you could say. Maybe a little disjointed even? But oh the character development! My long-time readers know that I am a sucker for good character development and this particular book had that in spades! It definitely made me want to keep reading!

I probably set the bar a little too high on this book and that’s why I felt a little disappointed in spots, but for the most part I thoroughly enjoyed this one and would definitely recommend it!


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Minrose Gwin AP Kim Jew Photography Studios.jpgKim Jew Photography Studios

About Minrose Gwin

Minrose Gwin is the author of The Queen of Palmyra, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick and finalist for the John Gardner Fiction Book Award, and the memoir Wishing for Snow, cited by Booklist as “eloquent” and “lyrical”—“a real life story we all need to know.” She has written four scholarly books and coedited The Literature of the American South. She grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi, hearing stories of the Tupelo tornado of 1936. She lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Find out more about Minrose at her website.

4/5, AUTHOR, B, Book Review, Nonfiction, RATING, Read in 2019

Review: I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel

I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life
by Anne Bogel

I'd Rather Be Reading

 

Copyright: 2018

Pages: 160

Read: July 16, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: Library

 

Blurb: Reading isn’t just a way to pass the time – it’s a lifestyle. Books shape, define, and enchant us. They are part of who we are and we can’t imagine life without them. In this collection of charming and relatable reflections, beloved blogger and author Anne Bogel leads you to remember the book that first hooked you, the place where you first fell in love with reading, and all the books and moments afterward that helped make you the reader you are today.


Review:

Bookish enthusiasm is contagious, but it isn’t sufficient – not if I want to find the books that are truly right for me, and for you to find the ones right for you. It’s easy enough for me to say, “I liked that book,” or “I didn’t,” but I often struggle to explain why. I’m constantly surprised at how difficult it is to articulate my thoughts on what I’ve read in a way that is coherent, useful, and enjoyable, whether I’m sharing a five-thousand-word formal review or a twenty-word text message. But I feel I owe it to my fellow readers to try, because my comments help others decide what is worth reading and what should be read next. [p. 115]

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Anne Bogel and her blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy. I’ve also been a member of her online book club for over a year. So I’m not entirely sure why I’ve waited so long to read this book of hers. Well, it’s probably because a collection of essays is not something I’ve ever really been drawn to read. But I should have known better – these are bookish essays, and bookish things are my jam!

At 160 pages I knocked this book out in an afternoon at home with my sick daughter. I book darted the heck out of it as well. It was just a really fun read. I found myself nodding and smiling throughout the entire thing. All I could think of was – THESE ARE MY PEOPLE! And let’s be honest, if you’re reading this, you probably fall in that designation as well – BOOK PEOPLE!

So if you’re looking for a fun way to spend an afternoon reading a book about books pick this one up. Or you could spread it out and read one or two here and there. But let’s be honest – who has that kind of self-control when reading/thinking about books!? And be prepared for Chapter 10 – Bookworm Problems. If you’re like me, you will relate to every single sentence in that entire chapter. THESE ARE MY PEOPLE, folks!

Highly recommended!

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2019, X-Y-Z

Review: The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib

The Girls at 17 Swann Street
by Yara Zgheib

The Girls at 17 Swann Street

 

Copyright: 2019

Pages: 384

Read: July 13 – July 15, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: Library

 

Blurb: The chocolate went first, then the cheese, the fries, the ice cream. The bread was more difficult, but if she could just lose a little more weight, perhaps she would make the soloists list. Perhaps if she were lighter, danced better, tried harder, she would be good enough. Perhaps if she just ran for one more mile, lost just one more pound. 

Anna Roux was a professional dancer who followed the man of her dreams from Paris to Missouri. There, alone with her biggest fears – imperfection, failure, loneliness – she spirals down into anorexia and depression till she weighs a mere eighty-eight pounds. Forced to seek treatment, she is admitted as a patient at 17 Swann Street, a peach-pink house where pale, fragile women with life-threatening eating disorders live. Women like Emm, the veteran; quiet Valerie; Julia, who is always hungry. Together, they must fight their diseases and face six meals a day.

Every bite causes anxiety. Every flavor induces guilt. And every step Anna takes toward recovery will require strength, endurance, and the support of the girls at 17 Swann Street.


Review: I picked this one up on a whim at my library. I was just browsing the shelf and this one caught my eye. I had seen it mentioned before online, but I was really drawn in by that cover (and the “Z” author certainly helped for my Goodreads challenges 🙂 )

This book is a heartbreaking tale. My stomach was just in knots most of the time. I suffered the same anxiety as the ladies did when it was their meal times. I was terrified for them and how they would make it through. It brought out such an emotional response from me that I was not prepared for.

This is not an easy read, but I feel like it’s an important read. I knew a girl in high school who sought treatment for anorexia. I don’t remember that she ever got that thin – I think her family caught it before it got too serious. But I remember not really understanding it at the time. This book really helped me to understand it better. I wish I had had a book like this all those years ago. It would have helped all of us understand what she was dealing with a little bit better.

Overall I highly recommend this book. It’s a tough read about a tough subject, but one that I think is necessary for us to better understand eating disorders and those suffering from them.

 

5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, C, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2019

Review: The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin

The Last Romantics
by Tara Conklin

The Last Romantics

 

Copyright: 2019

Pages: 386

Read: July 6 – July 9, 2019

Rating: 5/5

Source: Library

 

Blurb: When the renowned poet Fiona Skinner is asked about the inspiration behind her iconic work, The Love Poem, she tells her audience a story about her family and a betrayal that reverberates through time.

It begins in a big yellow house with a funeral, an iron poker, and a brief variation forever known as the Pause: a free and feral summer in a middle-class Connecticut town. Caught between the predictable life they once led and an uncertain future that stretches before them, the Skinner siblings—fierce Renee, sensitive Caroline, golden boy Joe and watchful Fiona—emerge from the Pause staunchly loyal and deeply connected.  Two decades later, the siblings find themselves once again confronted with a family crisis that tests the strength of these bonds and forces them to question the life choices they’ve made and ask what, exactly, they will do for love.

A sweeping yet intimate epic about one American family, The Last Romantics is an unforgettable exploration of the ties that bind us together, the responsibilities we embrace and the duties we resent, and how we can lose—and sometimes rescue—the ones we love. A novel that pierces the heart and lingers in the mind, it is also a beautiful meditation on the power of stories—how they navigate us through difficult times, help us understand the past, and point the way toward our future.


Review: This one is on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Summer Reading Guide. I remember when it came out back in February I was interested in it, but it sounded a little outside of my wheelhouse so I wasn’t entirely sure that I would enjoy it. So I put it in the back of my mind and moved on. Then when I realized that it was sitting on my library’s shelf, immediately available, right before I went on vacation I thought – why not? So I checked it out and took it down to Florida with me.

When I was finally able to pick it up (I had two books on deck before it) it was the day before we left for home. I was completely swept up in the story. I ended up reading a very large majority of this book while we were on our 15 hour drive home. I could barely tear myself away from the story. I felt like I was right there with the Skinner’s as Fiona weaved her story through the years. I cheered them on, I grieved with them. This book elicited the gamut of emotions out of me. It is so, so good. Such a great story.

I really and truly enjoyed this book. I highly recommend it! It’s definitely going to go on my “best of” list at the end of the year. Seriously … read this book!

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, Q, RATING, Read in 2019

Review: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

The Alice Network
by Kate Quinn

The Alice Network

 

Copyright: 2017

Pages: 494

Read: June 23 – July 5, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: Purchased new
Blurb: 1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, code name Alice, the “queen of spies,” who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. That is until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth … no matter where it leads.


Review: I purchased this one new some time ago and I was really excited about this one – it sounded so good! And then I did what I always do – I let it languish on my bookshelves. So I was excited to finally get around to this one.

For the most part, I enjoyed it. However, I struggled in the beginning – it had quite a slow start for me. But I powered through it and was pleasantly rewarded by sticking it out.

I definitely enjoyed it and am glad that I finally got around to reading this one. I’d definitely recommend this one!

2/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, H, RATING, Read in 2019

Review: The River by Peter Heller

The River
by Peter Heller

The River

 

Copyright: 2019

Pages: 253

Read: June 30 – July 2, 2019

Rating: 2/5

Source: Library
Blurb: Wynn an dJack have been best friends since freshman orientation, bonded by their shared love of mountains, books, and fishing. Wynn is a gentle giant, a Vermont kid never happier than when his feet are in the water. Jack is more rugged, raised on a ranch in Colorado where sleeping under the stars and cooking on a fire came as naturally to him as breathing. When they decide to canoe the Maskwa River in northern Canada, they anticipate long days of leisurely paddling and picking blueberries, and nights of stargazing and reading paperback Westerns. But a wildfire making its way across the forest adds unexpected urgency to the journey. When they hear a man and woman arguing on the fog-shrouded riverbank and decide to warn them about the fire, their search for the pair turns up nothing and no one. But: The next day a man appears on the river, paddling alone. Is this the man they heard? And, if he is, where is the woman? From this charged beginning, master storyteller Peter Heller unspools a headlong, heart-pounding tale of desperate wilderness survival.


Review: This book is on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Summer Reading Guide this year. And it was available at the library, so I decided to take a chance on it. I wasn’t too sure about the  outdoorsy aspect of it (so not my cup of tea), but I was a little intrigued by the blurb – who was this man? Where was the woman? What was the argument about?

To be completely honest … it fell short for me. I found it to be extremely wordy. And unfortunately it was wordy about things that simply did not interest me. I really have no interest in the outdoors or canoeing and this book really centers around this. And then I was disappointed that there wasn’t really more to the man and woman arguing aspect of the book. Had it gone more in that direction it likely would have worked better for me. I also didn’t care much for the ending.

Overall it’s a quick read but I did find myself skimming a lot more than I usually do in a book. There was just a lot of information about canoeing and the general outdoors that simply bored me. This one just wasn’t a book for me.

Life, Miscellaneous Ramblings

Accidental Radio Silence…

…well I certainly didn’t intend to go dark for quite as long as I did. We spent the first week of July in Florida on a family vacation. When we got back it was straight back to work and I was absolutely covered up. Throw in a night up to St. Louis for the Hootie & the Blowfish concert and two days home with a sick child, and nearly two weeks has gone by. Oops.

The good news is that I’ve got 4 book reviews coming up. And I’ve acquired entirely too many new and new-to-me books that I still need to share with everyone. So I’ve got some good content coming up, stay tuned!

3/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, F, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2019

Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl

 

Copyright: 2012

Pages: 415

Read: June 17 – 22, 2019

Rating: 3/5

Source: Paperbackswap


Blurb
: On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.


Review: I swear I am probably the last person on earth who calls themself a thriller reader to have read this book. When it came out it had all that huge buzz that sends me the complete opposite direction of the book. A few years after it came out I tried to read it but ultimately DNF’d it – I can’t even really remember why I DNF’d it, but I remember I didn’t get very far in. So I’ve been hesitant to pick it back up. Yet I still wanted to give it at least one more good shot.

I wasn’t expecting to be immediately drawn into it. It was just like revelation after revelation. And then you get to the “twist” and it was like WHOA! I was enthralled. It was so deliciously creepy I could hardly stop reading.

And then came the ending.

And it was like a freaking train wreck.

Ugh.

I cannot remember the last time I was so disappointed by a book ending. I was absolutely disgusted by the way it ended. I can think of at least three ways it could have ended better. But the way it ended? Just a total and complete disappointment.

Also – did anyone else have a really creepy reminder of Scott Peterson throughout this book when Nick would speak or was described? I just couldn’t get past the parallels of that case and some of the things in this book. Maybe that was just me – but I can’t tell you how many separate times Scott Peterson kept popping into my head while reading this one.

I can’t say much more than that. I don’t even really feel like I could honestly recommend this book without prefacing my recommendation about the terrible ending. Maybe I was just expecting too much out of this one – but it just didn’t work for me. And as a result it went from an almost 5 star read to a 3 star.

I am eager to see the movie now though – because I can totally see Ben Affleck as Nick!

AUTHOR, Book Review, D, Fiction, Read in 2019, Review Book, TLC Book Tours

Review: The Cutting Room by Ashley Dyer

unnamed-5About The Cutting Room

• Hardcover: 448 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (June 18, 2019)

Detectives Ruth Lake and Greg Carver, introduced in the electrifying Splinter in the Blood, must stop a serial killer whose victims are the centerpiece of his macabre works of art.

While Britain is obsessed with the newest hit true-crime television show, Fact, or Fable? detectives Ruth Lake and Greg Carver are tormented by a fiendish flesh-and-blood killer on the loose.

Lured to a “crime scene” by a mysterious digital invitation, Ruth Lake is horrified by what she finds: a bizarre and gruesome tableau surrounded by a crowd of gawkers. The deadly work is the latest “art installation” designed by a diabolical criminal dubbed the Ferryman. Not only is this criminal cold-blooded; he’s a narcissistic exhibitionist desperate for an audience. He’s also clever at promoting his deadly handiwork. Exploiting England’s current true-crime craze, he uses social media to titillate and terrorize the public.

Ruth is joined in the investigation by her partner Greg Carver, who is slowly regaining his strength after a run-in with another sadistic criminal. But Greg can’t seem to shake the bewildering effects of the head wound that nearly ended him. Are the strange auras blurring his vision an annoying side effect of his injury, or could they be something more . . . a tool to help him see a person’s true nature?

In this utterly engrossing and thrilling tale of suspense, a pair of seasoned detectives face off against a wickedly smart and inventive psychopath in a tense, bloody game that leads to a shocking end.


REVIEW:

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review; all opinions expressed are my own.

Whoa! Now THIS was a thriller! It was fast paced and just a roller coaster ride with some crazy twists and turns. When I was first pitched this book I had no idea that it was actually the second book in a series, but I can tell you that while the background of that first book would have been nice, I easily fell right in with Ruth and Greg.

This book is told from multiple perspectives. Sometimes that works for me and sometimes it doesn’t. In this particular book it definitely worked for me! It really made for very well-developed characters. And can I just say that I really relished the parts of the killer? Talk about creepy!

I’m really glad that I was able to find this book and I will definitely keep any future books in this series on my radar! Definitely recommended!!


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Ashley Dyer

Ashley Dyer is a writing duo based in the United Kingdom.

Margaret Murphy is a Writing Fellow and Reading Round Lector for the Royal Literary Fund, a past chair of the Crime Writers Association (CWA), and founder of Murder Squad. A CWA Short Story Dagger winner, she has been shortlisted for the First Blood critics’ award for crime fiction as well as the CWA Dagger in the Library. Under her own name she has published nine psychological suspense and police procedural novels.

Helen Pepper is a senior lecturer in policing at Teesside University. She has been an analyst, forensic scientist, scene of crime officer, CSI, and crime scene manager. She has coauthored, as well as contributed to, professional policing texts. Her expertise is in great demand with crime writers: she is a judge for the CWA’s Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction Award, and is a forensic consultant on both the Vera and Shetland TV series.

Find out more at their website, www.ashley-dyer.com.

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2019, SERIES, Stephanie Plum

Review: Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich

Twelve Sharp
by Janet Evanovich

Twelve Sharp

 

Copyright: 2006

Pages: 322

Read: June 12 – 16, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: Goodwill

 

Blurb: While chasing down the usual cast of miscreants and weirdos, Stephanie discovers that a crazed woman is stalking her.

The woman dresses in black, carries a 9mm Glock, and has a bad attitude and a mysterious connection to dark and dangerous Carlos Manoso … street name, Ranger.

The action turns deadly serious, and Stephanie goes from hunting skips to hunting a murderer.

Ranger needs Stephanie for more reasons than he can say. And now, the two are working together to find a killer, rescue a missing child, and stop a lunatic from raising the body count. When Stephanie Plum and Ranger get too close for comfort, vice cop Joe Morelli (her on-again, off-again boyfriend) steps in. Will the ticking clock stop at the stroke of twelve … or will a stranger in the wind find a way to stop Stephanie Plum … forever?


Review: I won’t lie. These books are not much more than some brain candy – total fluff books. But they’re usually entertaining so I try and read 1 or 2 of them a year – much more than that and I burn out.

This particular installment I feel was a little better than the last few. First, Stephanie went an entire book without having her car blow up. That’s got to be the end of like an 8 book streak. And then we see Ranger having a lot more of a presence in this book. Rather than flitting in and out as he pleases he’s got quite a bit role in this book. It was interesting to see the book from his perspective, but I’m solidly in the Joe Morelli camp.

So overall an installment that didn’t necessarily leave me in stitches, but I wasn’t rolling my eyes either. Decent.