4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, MMD Book Club, R, RATING, Read in 2019

Review: The Gown by Jennifer Robson

The Gown
by Jennifer Robson

The Gown

 

Copyright: 2018

Pages: 371

Read: June 1 – 10, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: Library

 

 

 

 

Blurb: London, 1947: Besieged by the harshest winter in living memory, burdened by onerous shortages and rationing, the people of postwar Britain are enduring lives of quiet desperation despite their nation’s recent victory. Among them are Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the famed Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Together they forge an unlikely friendship, but their nascent hopes for a brighter future are tested when they are chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime honor: taking part in the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown.

Toronto, 2016: More than half a century later, Heather Mackenzie seeks to unravel the mystery of a set of embroidered flowers, a legacy from her late grandmother. How did her beloved Nan, a woman who never spoke of her old life in Britain, come to possess the priceless embroideries that so closely resemble the motifs on the stunning gown worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding almost seventy years before? And what was her Nan’s connection to the celebrated textile artist and holocaust survivor Miriam Dassin?

With The Gown, Jennifer Robson takes us inside the workrooms where one of the most famous wedding gowns in history was created. Balancing behind-the-scenes details with a sweeping portrait of a society left reeling by the calamitous costs of victory, she introduces readers to three unforgettable heroines, their points of view alternating and intersecting throughout its pages, whose lives are woven together by the pain of survival, the bonds of friendship, and the redemptive power of love.


Review: This book is the June selection for the Modern Mrs. Darcy online book club. I had had it on my radar since it came out but I wasn’t entirely sure that I would like it. I was drawn by the cover, but historical fiction (while I do generally enjoy it) is not necessarily something I go out of my way to read. But I also have a fascination with the Royal Family so I kind of enjoyed that connection with this book (although that connection ends up being very, very small).

So what did I ultimately think? It was good. Somewhere between good and really good, probably. For the most part I enjoyed it, but I had some issues with one of the characters. How could Heather’s mother (Ann’s daughter) not have a few more questions about why she didn’t know more about her mother? She knew nothing about her father. She couldn’t even answer whether or not Hughes was her married or maiden name. And yet – she didn’t even seem to have any curiosity regarding the huge gaps of information she knew about her mother and her own familial history! I just cannot imagine not wanting to know more. As the reader gets the answers to those questions I can certainly understand why Ann chose to keep so much to herself, but it still irritated me.

There were some pretty heavy scenes throughout the book. Definite trigger warning right here. And honestly … I didn’t really feel like some of it was really all that necessary. It could have gone a completely different way. It almost felt thrown in there for the shock factor. It just didn’t fit with the rest of the book itself.

So now that I’ve gotten the negative out of the way, I can say that the rest of the book was really good. I enjoyed how the story unfolded, going back and forth between Ann and Miriam and Heather. I was rooting for both Ann and Miriam individually and I was sad to see that they were not able to continue their friendship long-term.

I really don’t know what else to say about this book. I enjoyed it. It’s an interesting look at the post-war years in England – something that I personally have not read much about. This book is definitely not my usual reading style, but I’m glad that I gave it a go and I would definitely recommend it!

 

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

Review: A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum

A Woman is No Man
by Etaf Rum

A Woman in No Man

 

Copyright: 2019

Pages: 337

Read: June 3 – 5, 2019

Rating: 5/5

Source: BOTM

 

Blurb: Palestine, 1990. Seventeen-year-old Isra prefers reading books to entertaining this suitors her father has chosen for her. Her desires are irrelevant, however – over the course of a week, the naive and dreamy girl finds herself betrothed, then married, and soon living in Brooklyn. There Isra struggles to adapt to the expectations of her oppressive mother-in-law, Fareeda, and her strange new husband, Adam: a pressure that intensifies as she begins to have children – four daughters instead of the sons Isra is expected to bear.

Brooklyn, 2008. At her grandmother’s insistence, eighteen-year-old Deya must meet with potential husbands and prepare herself for marriage, though her only desire is to go to college. Her grandmother is firm on the matter, however: the only way to secure a worthy future for Deya is through marriage to the right man. But fate has a will of its own, and soon Deya will find herself on an unexpected path that leads her to shocking truths that will force her to question everything she thought she knew about her family, the past, and her own future.

Set in an America at once foreign to many and staggeringly close at hand, A Woman is No Man is a story of culture and honor, secrets and betrayals, love and violence. It is an intimate glimpse into a controlling and closed cultural world, and a universal tale about family and the ways silence and shame can destroy those we have sworn to protect.


Review: This book is AMAZING. It gave me all.the.feels. I’m so glad that I picked it up sooner rather than later, I had no idea what I was missing! And I’m definitely glad I didn’t miss this one.

When it came up as a Book of the Month club selection back in February I was hesitant. But to be honest, I didn’t feel like choosing the thriller selection that month – it feels like that’s all I pick from there. I wanted to branch out a little bit and for whatever reason this book really spoke to me. So I picked it. And then I let it sit. And sit. And sit some more. Fast forward to June when it just so happened to fit a Goodreads challenge callout that I had going I was nervous to pick it up but it was my best option for this particular callout. All I can say is thank goodness I gave it a shot!

I basically read this book in two sittings. The first 75 pages I read one night while letting my daughter watch her nightly iPad show before bed (don’t mom judge me!). I found it to be interesting but nothing spectacular at that point. It was reading easily enough. But then the next day I really didn’t want to pick it back. up. So I didn’t. But the next day I sat down with it for what I figured would be a few minutes with it. I ended up sitting there with it until I finished it. No joke! I NEVER do that. But I just couldn’t let the story go by that point. I had to know how it ended.

And whew. It’s a whirlwind of a book. There are so many emotions elicited. Anger. Disbelief. Sadness. Shock. I could go on and on. But this is kind of one of those books that I really think you have to read to fully comprehend. I could tell you the storyline but you have to feel this book to really get it. I could tell you all about it – but I think it’s best to just tell you to read it yourself. It’s an amazing book. And one that will undoubtedly be one of the best books I read in 2019.

Read. This. Book. 

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, G, Kinsey Millhone, RATING, Read in 2019, SERIES

Review: H is for Homicide by Sue Grafton

H is for Homicide
by Sue Grafton

H is for Homicide

 

Copyright: 1991

Pages: 256

Read: May 27 – 30, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: Paperbackswap

 

Blurb: His name is Parnell Perkins, and until shortly after midnight, he’d been a claims adjuster for California Fidelity. Then someone came along and put paid to that line of work. And to any other. Parnell Perkins had been shot at close range and left for dead in the parking lot outside California Fidelity’s offices.

To the cops, it looked like a robbery gone sour. To Kinsey Millhone, it looked like the cops were walking away from the case. She didn’t like the idea that a colleague and sometime drinking companion had been murdered. Or the idea that his murderer was loose and on the prowl. It made her feel exposed. Vulnerable.

Bibianna Diaz was afraid for her life. If there was one thing she knew for sure, it was that you didn’t cross Raymond Maldonado and live to tell the tale. And Bibianna had well and truly crossed him, running out on his crazy wedding plans and going into hiding in Santa Teresa – light years away from the Los Angeles barrio that was home turf to Raymond and his gang. Now she needed money to buy time, to make sure she’d put enough space between them. And the quickest way she knew to get money was to work an insurance scam – just like the ones Raymond was running down in L.A. The trouble was, Bibianna picked California Fidelity as her mark. And it wasn’t long before her name surfaced in one of Parnell Perkins’s open files and Kinsey was on her case. But so, too, was her spurned suitor, Raymon Maldonado.

He had a rap sheet as long as his arm, a hair-trigger temper that was best left untested, and an inability to take no for an answer. He also had Tourette’s syndrome, which did nothing to smooth out the kinks in his erratic and often violent behavior. All in all, Raymond Maldonado was not someone to spend a lot of time hanging out with. Unfortunately for Kinsey, she didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter. Not after the love-sick Raymond kidnapped Bibianna. Like it or not, Kinsey was stuck baby-sitting Bibianna along with Raymond and his macho crew. You might say she was a prisoner of love.

It may be Kinsey Millhone’s most complicated and risk-filled case.


Review: This is the 8th book in the Kinsey Millhone series. It had been a while since I had read “G” but I remember really enjoying it, so I was looking forward to falling back in with Kinsey.

This one read a lot differently than any of the previous books in the series. It definitely had a grittier feel to it. Kinsey was in a more precarious position than I feel like she ever has been in previous books. It was a good read, I enjoyed it.

It read quickly and easily. It kept me interested in the storyline. I felt like all the characters were well-developed – even the less important characters had good development. I really liked this book.

Recommended. And I’m looking forward to “I”.

3/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E-Book, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2019, S

Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea
by Rita Sepetys

Salt to the Sea

 

Copyright: 2016

Pages: 400

Read: May 18 – 25, 2019

Rating: 3/5

Source: Library E-Book

 

Blurb: In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer toward safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.


Review: This was a total impulse read based on a Goodreads challenge callout requirement. It’s not something that I would have picked up under any other circumstances.

Overall I was not that impressed by this book. It was just “ok” for me. I felt like a good 100 pages could have been deleted out and the story still could have accomplished its goal. Plus I didn’t care how there were so many points of view. Some of them didn’t feel necessary to tell the story being told.

It just didn’t work for me to be honest. It wasn’t bad, and it read easily enough. It just wasn’t my cup of tea.

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

Review: Monkeewrench by P.J. Tracy

Monkeewrench
by P.J. Tracy

Monkeewrench

 

Copyright: 2003

Pages: 404

Read: May 13 – 24, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: Paperbackswap

 

Blurb: People are dying for the new computer game by the software company Monkeewrench. Literally. With Serial Killer Detective in limited release, the real-life murders of a jogger and a young woman have already mimicked the first two scenarios in the game.

But Grace McBride and her eccentric Monkeewrench partners are caught in a vise. If they tell the Minneapolis police of the link between their game and the murders, they’ll shine a spotlight on the past they thought they had erased – and the horror they thought they’d left behind. If they don’t, eighteen more people will die…


Review: This is the first book in the Monkeewrench series. I have had this one on my shelf for quite some time so I was excited to finally get to it.

For the most part I enjoyed it. But it had a pretty slow start for me. I’m not sure exactly why, but I struggled to get to the halfway point. I think it was the bouncing back and forth between two distinct storylines that kind of held me up. They were completely different and I had no idea what on earth was going to tie this two plot lines together. But then it finally came together as to what the connection was. And from that point on it was a race to the finish to find out exactly what had happened and why.

I am on the fence about whether or not I want to continue on with this series or not. Part of my issue is that this one felt like a standalone, the storyline wrapped up nicely. I assume it’s because this book was not written with the intention of being the first in a series.

Either way this particular book was enjoyable enough. Once you get past that slow start the book itself is enjoyable and I liked it.

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, F, Non-Fiction, Presidential Reading Challenge, RATING, Read in 2019

Review: John Adams: A Life by John Ferling

John Adams: A Life
by John Ferling

John Adams-A Life

Copyright: 1992

Pages: 454

Read: April 20 – May. 19, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: Abebooks.com

 

 

Blurb: John Ferling’s masterful John Adams: A Life is the most comprehensive single-volume biography of the man who succeeded George Washington in the presidency and shepherded the fragile new nation through the most dangerous of times. Drawing on extensive research, Ferling depicts a reluctant revolutionary, a leader who was deeply troubled by the warfare that he helped to make, and a fiercely independent statesman.


Review: This is my 4th book on John Adams. And I have to say, if you are looking for a really good single-volume biography of Mr. Adams – read this one! I wish I had read this book first, because it was extremely readable and provided just the right amount of information to give a pretty good broad overview.

I personally thought this book was easier to read than David McCullough’s work. But I think that is just my personal preference – I struggled that McCullough’s book kind of jumped around here and there at times. Ferling’s book was linear in the timeline and I just preferred the writing style of this one.

For the most part I found Ferling to be quite fair in his analysis of John Adams. I was glad that I finally read a book where the author finally called Adams out for basically being an absent husband for a good 3/4 of his married years. I wouldn’t say that he was over-critical of that, but it was refreshing to finally have it pointed it, not just swept under the rug like it was no big deal.

The book itself reads easily. I personally struggled to get through the diplomatic years. But that has nothing to do with this book. I struggled with those same years in the previous books I’ve read. (Just like I struggled through the war years in the George Washington books I read).

Honestly, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It’s well-researched and well-written. I think it can appeal to casual readers as well as students of history. This one is definitely going to be a stand-out for me as far as the John Adams books I’m reading go. And like I said – if you’re looking for an easy-to-read single-volume biography on John Adams, I would highly recommend this one.

2/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E-Book, Fiction, N, RATING, Read in 2019

Review: The Bat by Jo Nesbo

The Bat
by Jo Nesbo

The Bat

 

Copyright: 1997

Pages: 331

Read: May 11 – 18, 2019

Rating: 2/5

Source: Library e-book

 

Blurb: The electrifying first appearance of Jo Nesbo’s detective, Harry Hole.

Inspector Harry Hole of the Oslo Crime Squad is dispatched to Sydney to observe a murder case. Harry is free to offer assistance, but he has firm instructions to stay out of trouble. The victim is a twenty-three year old Norwegian woman who is a minor celebrity back home. Never one to sit on the sidelines, Harry befriends one of the lead detectives, and one of the witnesses, as he is drawn deeper into the case. Together, they discover that this is only the latest in a string of unsolved murders, and the pattern points toward a psychopath working his way across the country. As they circle closer and closer to the killer, Harry begins to fear that no one is safe, least of all those investigating the case.


Review: I have been wanting to try this series for like EVER. I was thrilled to see that my library had an e-book copy that I could easily get and I had a Goodreads challenge callout that would be perfect for this book – so I knew it was time to finally get to it!

And then … I was really disappointed. Like to the point where had I not been reading this book for a challenge I would most have most likely DNF this one. 😦

But I stuck it out … and while it did get better there for a little bit, Harry went on a ridiculous drunken binge and I was just about done. Luckily he straightened back out but  to be honest, I was a little bit over it by then.

From what I’ve seen on Goodreads, the first book in this series is definitely not indicative of how good the books later in the series are. I do know that my grandmother gave me the 7th book in the series with a GLOWING review of it – maybe I’ll get to it someday. Or may be not. The verdict is still out, but this one did not work for me.

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

Review: The Far End of Happy by Kathryn Craft

The Far End of Happy
by Kathryn Craft

The Far End of Trouble

 

Copyright: 2015

Pages: 336

Read: May 6 – 9, 2019

Rating: 3/5

Source: Postal book club

 

Blurb: Ronnie’s husband is supposed to move out today. But when Jeff pulls into the driveway drunk, with a shotgun in the front seat, she realizes nothing about the day will go as planned.

The next few hours spiral down in a flash, unlike the slow disintegration of their marriage – and whatever part of that painful unraveling is Ronnie’s fault, not much else matters now but these moments. Her family’s lives depend on the choices she will make – but is what’s best for her best for everyone?

Based on a real event from the author’s life, The Far End of Happy is a chilling story of one troubled man, the family that loves him, and the suicide standoff that will change all of them forever.


Review: So this book was a selection for my postal book club. I had never heard of it or the author, but when it came in the mail I was excited to give it a go. And for the most part it was pretty good. But this is for a suspense/thriller postal book club – and this book definitely did not fit that bill. So in that respect it was a little disappointing.

As for the book itself it was an interesting story. It’s heartbreaking to know that this actually happened to someone’s family in real life. I personally have never been directly impacted by suicide, but I have a close friend who lost a family member to suicide. I definitely applaud the author in being able to put her story down on paper. I’m sure it was in a way therapeutic, but I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for her to relive that story and put it out there for the world and all it’s criticism. That takes guts.

I thought it was a good book and it kept my interest, I was eager to get to the end to see how it all turned out. Although as a reader you pretty much “know” how the standoff will end it was still an interesting journey getting to that point. Overall I enjoyed this one.

4/5, AUTHOR, B, Book Review, E-Book, Fiction, MMD Book Club, RATING, Read in 2019

Review: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Tell Me Three Things
by Julie Buxbaum

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Copyright: 2016

Pages: 336

Read: April 29 – May 5, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: Library e-book

 

Blurb: What if the person you need the most is someone you’ve never met?

Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week as a junior at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short) offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?


Review:

My mom once told me that the world is divided into two kinds of people: the ones who love their high school years and the ones who spend the next decade recovering from them. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, she said.

But something did kill her, and I’m not stronger. So go figure; maybe there’s a third kind of person: the ones who never recover from high school at all.

–p. 12

This book is the May selection in the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club. I thought it sounded like a decent read and I saw that I could get it in an e-book through my library. I figured if I didn’t like it after so many pages I’d just turn it back in and that would be that. But what I wasn’t expecting was to be really taken by this book! I don’t know why I say that – more often than not I really enjoy the books selected by Anne.

This book took me right back to high school. I personally didn’t have the greatest high school experience (I moved schools in 7th grade and the day I graduated high school I was still known as “the new girl” even though I had been there for over 5 years at that point). So I totally understood what Jessie was going through with that new school thing. I only wish I had had a “Somebody Nobody” to guide me through those early few days, weeks and months.

Enough reminiscing about high school, back to the book. I found it to be easily readable. And even though I am far removed from high school I still enjoyed the book. I was anxious to see who SN ended up being – and I had it totally pegged correctly. So while that part wasn’t necessarily a surprise, I personally thought the ending was just right.

It’s a cute book. I’m glad I gave it a shot. And I still find it amusing that every time I read a young adult I enjoy it – even though I never would have touched a young adult book when I was actually part of the target audience for that genre. It’s a fun and easy read. It’s really just a cute, sweet book. It didn’t feel fake – the teenage voices felt “real” to me. So yeah, I’d recommend it!

3/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, M, RATING, Read in 2019, Review Book, TLC Book Tours

Review: The Shadow Writer by Eliza Maxwell

The Shadow Writer
by Eliza Maxwell

The Shadow Writer

 

Copyright: 2019

Pages: 341

Read: April 24 – April 28, 2019

Rating: 3.5/5

Source: TLC Book Tours

 

Blurb: Every writer has a story. Some are deadlier than others.

Aspiring author Graye Templeton will do anything to escape the horrific childhood crime that haunts her. After a life lived in shadows, she’s accepted a new job as protégé to Laura West, influential book blogger and wife of an acclaimed novelist. Laura’s connections could make Graye’s publishing dreams a reality. But there’s more to Laura than meets the eye.

Behind the veneer of a charmed life, Laura’s marriage is collapsing. Her once-lauded husband is descending into alcoholism and ruin and bringing Laura nearer to the edge.

As the two women form a bond that seems meant to be, long-buried secrets claw their way into the present, and the line between friendship and obsession begins to blur, forcing each to decide where her loyalties lie. Running from the past is a dangerous game, and the loser could end up dead.


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

When I was originally pitched this book for review one phrase stuck out most of all in the blurb: “influential book blogger.” I mean, I felt like I wouldn’t be a very good book blogger myself if I didn’t read a book about a book blogger, right? So yeah, that’s basically what drew me to this book to begin with.

Overall, I found this book to be a really interesting read. My number one “complaint” (if I can even call it that) is that really it was almost 150-175 pages before I felt like anything of value had really happened. It was readable and enjoyable to that point, but I just didn’t feel like things were progressing like they should have been by that point in the book. Of course now that I have finished the book I realized just how wrong that assumption was (!!) – those first 150-175 pages were a lot more important than I realized at the time.

This book was a slow burn book; things were revealed little by little until the conclusion rushed at you and practically left me with whiplash. I never really did care for any of the characters, but that really didn’t affect my overall thoughts on the book. I knew there was something strange about Graye, there was enough information about her past to really leave me with a lot of questions, but I had no idea just how off Graye really would end up being.

Overall I enjoyed this book. It read easily and I found it to be a thrilling ride. Don’t let the first half of the book stop you from reading this one to its conclusion – it’s definitely worth the wait to find out just how crazy some things can end up being! Definitely recommended!!


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