Categories
Fiction General Fiction Suspense

ARC Review: The Way You Burn by Christine Meade

Thank you so much to Books Forward for the advanced copy of The Way You Burn by Christine Meade! The book was received in exchange for an honest review, and all opinions are my own.

Here is the description from Amazon:

When David approaches his New Hampshire cabin one cool October night to find it engulfed in flames, he knows his girlfriend Hope set the fire. At least, he’s pretty sure he knows.

David first decides to upend the creature comforts of his post-collegiate life and try roughing it for a year after he inherits two acres of land and a rustic cabin from his deceased grandfather. Life at the cabin proves to be more difficult than expected, however, and it all starts with the woman he loves—Hope—whose dark past is written in the twisting pink scars covering her body. Their relationship is challenged after his car slides through an intersection one dark night and, later, his realization that someone is out there, watching him through the trees.

Over the course of five seasons, David struggles to maintain his relationship with Hope. Ultimately, in an attempt to understand the sacrifices she has had to make, he decides to rewrite their story. In doing so, he explores the lessons he’s left with–after everything he thought mattered is gutted or burned away—and the surprising bits of wisdom he finds in the ashes.

Those years right after college are when a large percentage of new adults are off in the world learning how to be successful and happy humans.  As a 30 something year old this is my favorite coming-of-age group to read about, as it is easier for me to relate to.  David is the main character and he decides to leave his parents house to go live in the New Hampshire cabin that his recently deceased grandfather left him.

David has recently met a young woman named Hope, who has some obvious physical scarring caused by burns.  Before too long he gets  glimpses of her inner issues in the form of small manipulations, but he lets her get away with it due to a certain level of naivety.  A large portion of the book is about David learning some of Hope’s past, then he has to balance her traumas with the need to set boundaries with her behavior.  This is difficult for adults of ANY age and eventually… well … you can see in the description that she burns his home down.  I felt like David made {mostly} good decisions as he learned his lessons.

The first most obvious thing that I encountered in the book was Meade’s use of the second person narrative.  It was a bit hard to get used to reading David’s letters in this form but it put me right into his head as he tried to do his best with the situations he encountered.

I am going to brush over the setting too and just say that David’s land sounds absolutely gorgeous.  Meade does a great job describing the changing colors of the leaves, the pond’s eco system, and the other sights, sounds, smells, and weather phenomena of the woods.  I grew up by a river and can relate to the effects of water and a fishing hole on the soul.

The book has a small suspense element as well which I really enjoyed.  David keeps finding a mysterious horse tied up in the woods among other small oddities, and he is convinced that someone else is living in his proximity.  This is actually a great storyline, no spoilers though.  I believe that this storyline is used to show how David’s maturity level grew to allow such a tasteful handling of tbe situation.

So obviously the relationships in the book are David’s catalysts in personal growth.  My absolute favorite one is with an old man named Harold that David meets, befriends, and ultimately becomes the caregiver for.  Harold is an old timer full of stories and no judgement, who teaches David what love truly looks like.  Harold’s stories about women in the insane asylum, and his wife’s devotion to caring for them, gives David insight into some major historical women’s issues and a tool for understanding his own family’s secrets.

I can’t discuss Hope too much without spoilers but I just never liked her, despite the traumas of her past.  Even with institutionalized years she never developed good coping skills.  She drove me nuts controlling David in small ways, and my little nurse brain is over here thinking “this woman is a CNA? Is she hurting or controlling her patients like this?” It didn’t seem like a good idea for her to be a caregiver at all.  Speaking of: Hope’s mother is a nurse, and at one point the book states “two generations of nurses” – technically wrong, as it is illegal for non-licensed personnel to call themselves a nurse.  Small details but she should have written “two generations of caregivers”  or something similar.

Last but not least let me use that thought to  segue into the infamous OneReadingNurse medical talk portion of the review:  actually … Kudoes to Meade on her portrayal of the hospitalized character.  A fat embolism is a huge risk of orthopedic surgeries and she nailed it as far as a logical death.  The staff acted pretty realistically as well, although I was surprised that no one took down next of kin contact info.  I might have teared up during the funeral portion. I also think Meade did an amazing job portraying Harold’s descent into dementia and the additional services he needed, from basic forgetfulness to the lowest possible moment in the bathroom with David.   I don’t want to touch the mental health portions but it seems like it was handled tastefully, and I hope that Hope did or does  actually get the additional help that she needed.

Whew, that was a tough review because the book is so deep! Let me pull back and say that while the book handles some tough themes, it is superbly well written.  I would recommend it for anyone out of college at least, anyone that enjoys a good coming of age tale, and men or women alike trying to understand life’s complexities.

Thank you so much again to Jackie at Books Forward for the advanced copy! It releases 4/14 through She Writes Press so add it to your TBR now!

Categories
Fiction General Fiction

Book Review: Been There, Married That by Gigi Levangie

Thank you so much to St. Martin’s Press for the finished copy of Been There, Married That by Gigi Levangie!  I received a free copy (and a super cute press kit) in exchange for an honest review!

My first impression was that the book isn’t my typical genre at all, but it moved along quickly, held my attention, made me laugh, and I felt like it accomplished it’s goal as a satire to shed some ridiculous light on Hollywood’s … ridiculousness.  A quick Google search told me that Levangie was actually married to a big producer (of A Beautiful Mind) and wrote some successful screenplays herself, so I had to wonder….is any of this insider knowledge?  I bet some of it actually happened in real life and I played a little ‘wonder if it actually happened’ game while reading!

Alright let’s talk about the book: Here is the description from GoodReads:

When he changes the locks, she changes the rules.

Agnes Murphy Nash is the perfect Hollywood wife – she has the right friends, the right clothes, and even a side career of her own as a writer. Her husband Trevor is a bigshot producer, and from the outside it looks like they’re living a picture-perfect celebrity life, complete with tennis tournaments and lavish parties.

But the job description of a Hollywood wife doesn’t cover divorce, which is the way Agnes’ life is headed after she comes home one day to find her credit cards cancelled and the security passwords to get into her enormous LA home changed. Oh, and there’s a guy there whose job it is to tase her if she tries to enter…which she does. Needless to say, Agnes’ husband is dead set on making sure she loses big time, but Agnes isn’t the type to just lie down and take it. In a world of fremenies and hot nannies, personal psychics and “skinny” jello shots, Agnes may be losing her husband, but could that mean getting her own life back?

Been There, Married That is a drop-dead hilarious battle of wills that will make you laugh out loud, cringe, and keep turning the pages to see what crazy disaster will happen to Agnes next…and how she’ll rise from the ashes

The book was hilarious at times.  Agnes and her friends and their lifestyles in general were so over-the-top and insane that it’s not something a normal, not insanely rich person could ever relate to.  Every already ridiculous outing whether it be lunch, book club, party, or divorce court, is already crazy, and Levangie adds an extra layer of “oh my god that can’t be real” on top of everything.  That led me to believe that the entire book is a satire, which essentially makes fun of a people or a lifestyle.  Agnes goes through a messy divorce with a super organized man, who goes crazy if his notepad is moved two inches to the right on the counter.  He draws battle lines in the house and has Agnes tased on the front lawn! It was just funny!

Levangie mentions (and makes of) a lot of Hollywood trends that are leaking into regular society as well.  Some that I noticed are excessive use of therapists and personal assistants,  weird Instagram and social media themes, dieting trends, rehab stints, food frenzies, and this great bit about having a baby’s gender reveal party when they are 40!  Hello people this is actually happening in “normal people” society as well!  Pop culture is crazy and I think it’s a little important to be aware of what messages are being sent down.  General extravagance, life coaches, and even pyramid scheme jewelry sales are a few other topics that are less serious and had me laughing throughout the pages.

The custody battle almost made me feel bad for their daughter, but Trevor Nash really didn’t need to have anything to do with a child, he just wanted to WIN the divorce.  Ok, I guess I felt bad for the kid even though she had everything she could possibly want, eventually she realized that she needed her mom. Then the courtroom custody portion was sad, it seemed to be the one reminder in the book that the main character was….. a human.   Agnes’ sister was a trip as well and so were the trio of South American workers in the house, it was hard to believe that any work actually got done. One other great character is Agnes’ dad,  he is clueless but loves her endlessly, and makes a few funny cameos.

One thing that I didn’t like was how Levangie used a lot of abbreviations and different slang terms used for places, things, and ideas, and there is no way that the average reader is going to know what any of it means.  It doesn’t affect the story at all but I feel like the language could have been less ‘insider-y’ at times.  The narrative was all over the place too at times, which kind of makes sense  for the way the main character’s brain worked.  The story did streamline more in the second half of the book but it was a bit hard to read at first.

Overall this is really a pretty good read. It is a hard one at times but I recommend viewing it as a satire, a joke, and reading the underlying themes however you will.  Was it insider? Did it happen or was it just Levangie having a good laugh at pop culture? The book released in early February so check it out if it sounds like something you’d enjoy! Thank you again to St Martin’s Press for the review copy! All opinions are my own.

Categories
Fiction General Fiction

The Peacock Feast by Lisa Gornick

Title: The Peacock Feast

Author: Lisa Gornick

Publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Sarah Crichton Books)

Rating: 3/5 ***

Release Date: February 5th, 2019

A big thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for the eARC in exchange for an honest review

The Goodreads summary reads as follows:

The Peacock Feast opens on a June day in 1916 when Louis C. Tiffany, the eccentric glass genius, dynamites the breakwater at Laurelton Hall—his fantastical Oyster Bay mansion, with columns capped by brilliant ceramic blossoms and a smokestack hidden in a blue-banded minaret—so as to foil the town from reclaiming the beach for public use. The explosion shakes both the apple crate where Prudence, the daughter of Tiffany’s prized gardener, is sleeping and the rocks where Randall, her seven-year-old brother, is playing.

Nearly a century later, Prudence receives an unexpected visit at her New York apartment from Grace, a hospice nurse and the granddaughter of Randall, who Prudence never saw again after hcre left at age fourteen for California. The mementos Grace carries from her grandfather’s house stir Prudence’s long-repressed memories and bring her to a new understanding of the choices she made in work and love, and what she faces now in her final days.

The plot/characters:

Prudence is able to perform a life review and find validation through Grace. We hear the stories about Tiffany and the satellite characters in his life; quite an unflattering portrayal but he was such a bizarre character! We learn about Randall’s side of the family from Grace: the adventures of his dysfunctional son, the also slightly dysfunctional grandchildren, and all of those family members. Honestly there were too many characters, I had to draw a family tree and make a separate list of who was who. It was hard to keep track of Tiffany’s friends, cohorts, and employees the most. I also don’t feel like bringing the Freud’s in did much for the story. There is no grand overarching plot that I can discern but the themes carry the book across generations.

The Themes:

The grand theme throughout the book could be adapting to and accepting grief, death, and reconciliation with your life choices. These themes appeared across and united all of the story lines. Grace, the great-niece and hospice nurse, was the shining star of this book for me due to her breathtakingly accurate descriptions of her career. Even as an ICU nurse I can appreciate her ongoing assessment of everyone’s health. I would almost think Gornick is or was a nurse! Outside of Grace, the book had solid but generally unimpressive writing and descriptions.

Other Random Bits and Wrap up:

It was very cool that Anais Nin got a mention. My dad reviewed a few of her books and had ongoing correspondence with her. She was a lovely and under-hyped writer. I thought Anna Freud was going to uncover Prudence’s memory but she really had no main role. Overall the book did have some interesting parts, but other times it was hard to stick with, depending on what story lines one enjoyed most.

I gave it 3/5 stars and would recommend to fans of general fiction, any design gurus, quite a few nurses would enjoy it as well! Thank you again to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy!

Categories
Fiction General Fiction Suspense

What We Did by Christobel Kent

Title: What We Did

Author: Christobel Kent

Release date: Feb 5th, 2019

(Note: a prior edition is currently available on Amazon)

Rating: 3 stars

First off, a big thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!

The summary appears as follows:

Bridget has a secret—one she keeps from everyone, even her husband. One that threatens to explode when her childhood music teacher, Carmichael, walks into her dress shop. With him is a young girl on the cusp of adulthood, fresh-faced and pretty. She reminds Bridget of herself at that age, naïve and vulnerable.

Bridget wants him away—away from her, away from that girl. But Carmichael won’t leave her alone, won’t stop stalking her. And Bridget’s not a little girl anymore. When he pushes her too far, she snaps. But what she thought was a decisive act only unravels more insidious threats—more than she could have ever imagined—and from which no one is safe, not even her family.

The bestselling British author Christobel Kent has written yet another thrilling page-turner with a twisted, riveting conclusion. What We Did is a nightmarish, impossible-to-put-down tale of the secrets we keep from our families, of chilling childhood abuse, and of long-awaited retribution.

Let’s start with the plot! A team of pedophiles is back in Bridget’s life from her childhood, threatening her family and at least one other young girl in the community. Her husband works at the local college with one of the men and becomes unwittingly involved as a journalist nudges him into her search for proof. The book started off predictably with the main pedophile accidentally murdered, but turned into a tangle as the plot wound and unwound with repercussions and events throughout the novel. It kept me interested but also disappointed at times as I felt like more could have happened.

A good example is outside of Carmichael’s house when a man was behind Bridget all of a sudden. It ended up being a benign event but the author makes us wait through another point of view chapter before revealing what had happened, and here I was thinking that she was going to get either abducted or rescued from another pedophile! This happened more than once. The transitions between past and present were confusing at times too, I understand that was how Bridget’s mind flashed back and forth but sometimes I didn’t know what was happening and had to read the page again. Overall though it kept me engaged through the novel.

That covers the writing style as well. As far as the characters: I ended up liking Gill a lot more than I thought I would, although I found myself skimming her point of view chapters. Her life didn’t interest me at all and she just seemed to add length to the book. Finn and Laura are the innocent characters that drive home the point that abuse can appear in all forms, to anyone. The characters were pretty neutral to me but I ended up feeling bad for most of them. Matt was my favorite, just a guy trying to do the right thing.

Overall I am sticking with 3 stars. I ended up loving how she tied everything together at the end, even if it took a while to get there. It looked like the characters were going to be able to move on and rebuild their lives in a healthier manner. The book was a decent suspense/thriller, and I would recommend to anyone who likes that kind of suspenseful fiction.

Categories
Fiction General Fiction

Turning Point by Danielle Steel

Title: Turning Point

Author: Danielle Steel

Length: 288 pages

Release date: 1/8/19

Rating: 4/5 stars

First off, a huge thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, for the eARC of Turning Point in exchange for an honest review! I normally love Danielle Steel and was not let down by her current effort!

The Amazon description reads:

In Danielle Steel’s powerful new novel, four trauma doctors—the best and brightest in their field—confront exciting new challenges, both personally and professionally, when given an unusual opportunity.

Bill Browning heads the trauma unit at San Francisco’s busiest emergency room, SF General. With his ex-wife and daughters in London, he immerses himself in his work and lives for rare visits with his children. A rising star at her teaching hospital, UCSF at Mission Bay, Stephanie Lawrence has two young sons, a frustrated stay-at-home husband, and not enough time for any of them. Harvard-educated Wendy Jones is a dedicated trauma doctor at Stanford, trapped in a dead-end relationship with a married cardiac surgeon. And Tom Wylie’s popularity with women rivals the superb medical skills he employs at his Oakland medical center, but he refuses to let anyone get too close, determined to remain unattached forever.

These exceptional doctors are chosen for an honor and a unique project: to work with their counterparts in Paris in a mass-casualty training program. As professionals, they will gain invaluable knowledge from the program. As ordinary men and women, they will find that the City of Light opens up incredible new possibilities, exhilarating, enticing, and frightening.

When an unspeakable act of mass violence galvanizes them into action, their temporary life in Paris becomes a stark turning point: a time to face harder choices than they have ever made before—with consequences that will last a lifetime.

At first I thought that keeping track of eight characters would be confusing, but it really was not. Each character got equal time in the novel and although it hopped around a lot, the style kept the pace moving right along. The doctors are eight very different people that end up bonding and becoming friends over common interests and the terrible tragedy in Paris. Those relationships and blooming romances are the primary focus of the novel, although thankfully for my tastes the romance is a small portion and not overdone.

Dealing with work-life balance is difficult, I am a nurse and know how hard it can be. The characters face realistic and relate-able issues while juggling family, kids and career goals. The plot just kept moving along, using these struggles, relationships and tragic events as hooks that kept me engaged for the entire read. I found it to be a fairly quick book but thoroughly enjoyed it.

Overall I give this a solid 4/5 stars and would not hesitate to recommend to anyone who likes Danielle Steel, women’s fiction, anyone who can relate to the work vs. life struggle, and anyone looking for a good book in general.

Categories
Fantasy General Fiction

Snow White Learns Witchcraft by Theodora Goss

Thank you to NetGalley and Mythic Delirium Books for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!

This fairy tale filled collection of eight stories and 23 poems doesn’t release until Feb 5th 2019, but it is available for pre-order.

Theodora Goss definitely takes a unique approach to fairy tale tellings! This collection of poems and short stories takes on many well known tales like Snow White, Thumbellina, Sleeping Beauty, and others that I can’t place. Goss completely recreates or adds to the tales, imagines new endings, and makes them her own.

I personally liked Blanchefleur because even though I didn’t know the original tale, it was a good story! Rose Child was a wonderfully written shorter poem. I giggled when Sleeping Beauty’s “prince” fell into a fairy hole instead, and the author gave that old hound a happy ending!

Not what I was expecting but pretty unique and I liked these tales a lot. 4/5 stars!

Categories
Fiction General Fiction

The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay

Title: The Rain Watcher

Author: Tatiana de Rosnay

Release date: 10/30/18

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Length: 240pages

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the free eARC in exchange for an honest review!

This is the story of the Malegarde family, told through Paul(the father)’s written account and Linden(the son)’s memories. There is a terrible flood in Paris where the core of the family is convened for Paul’s birthday. As the waters rise, so does the tension as the family deals with illness, tragedy, and coming to terms with past traumas.

Once I figured out the flow of who was narrating at what time, this became a lovely read. Paul’s voice is so unique, here is a brief quote just because I love it:

” I played with the trees. They were like living things to me, as alive as humans. They seemed to whisper secrets. Maybe I was the only one who heard them . Trees were at the heart of things. I was four years old, but I sensed that already.” – from Paul’s transcript.

While I was not fully engaged in the story at times, the writing is truly beautiful. Linden’s descriptions of people, places, and the flood are amazingly vivid. I would have enjoyed the story more if I knew Paris – I skimmed some of the tales about the city but I could see French people truly loving this book.

The characters are very real, well developed, and likeable. Each Malegarde faces and comes to terms with a past or present trauma in the novel. The dialogue is also very well done except some times the book switches from conversation to a third person telling, right in the middle.

As a nurse I also really liked the hospital evacuation scenes, how cool would it be to work disaster relief!

I would 100% recommend this to anyone with even a vague knowledge of Paris, lovers of language, and a good fiction. 4/5 stars only because the author lost me at times in the pages of stories!

Categories
General Fiction Thrillers

Vendetta by Iris Johansen

Title: Vendetta

Author: Iris Johansen

Release date: 10/23/18

Pages: 413

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Rating & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 yes to fans of the author and genre

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley for the opportunity to read the eARC of Vendetta in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own!

This was an honor!

In the 5th Catherine Ling thriller, a team of intelligence operatives must work together to locate and bring down the Red Star terrorist group before they wreak havoc on the west coast. I was expecting to see more of Catherine, but she plays a supporting role to Rachel Venable (Carl’s daughter) and they make a strong female team. Brandon, Hu Chang, Nate, Monty, and Cameron make up a great supporting cast of characters. I found the characters to be one of the strong points in the book – their relationships and access to international intrigue.

Johansen’s writing style is absorbing and easy to read.  My one qualm is that she used “jerkily” and “dryly” quite a few times- strong or distinct words like those stand out FAR too much to be used as frequently.  I know that Johansen has a vast vocabulary to pull from and likely she didn’t realize she was doing it. Speaking of oddball items – Cameron threw me off as well, where does one supernatural(ish) man fit into the world? He really does not and I feel like he takes away from the book, but just ever so slightly.

The plot and story itself are amazing. I love the deep level of intrigue between the CIA, Red Star, Nemesis, and the various other groups trying to vie for information and results.  At times there was too much talking, sitting around the house, chatting on the veranda…. The background is interesting and important but there is just too much of it, then the action came and went rather quickly. Very awesome and intense action though, I couldn’t stop reading once it started heating up.

Overall I would recommend it to Johansen fans and fans of action. It does work as a stand alone novel but doesn’t do Catherine a lot of justice so I wouldn’t start with it.

Again, thank you NetGalley and the aforementioned, I really was thrilled to be able to read and review this!

Categories
Fiction General Fiction

24 Hours of the Phoenix by Caroline Bertaud

Title: 24 Hours of the Phoenix

Author: Caroline Bertaud

Release date: 11/3/18 **Debut novel**

Length: 327 pages

Rating: 3.5/5 stars!

First off, thank you to NetGalley and Caroline Bertaud for this eARC in exchange for an honest review! This is Bertaud’s debut novel and I enjoyed it for the most part!

This book asks the question “What would you do if you had 24 hours left to live?” Thrown into this position, 21 year old Phoenix navigates her emotions and life review in this novel. The premise and format is fairly unique as each chapter constitutes an hour in the countdown that is supposedly left of her life. This format served to break the novel up into readable and well organized portions. I appreciate the perfect length of the chapters and it kept me hooked, I kept thinking “Yes I have time for one more!”

The premise itself didn’t quite work for me (and unfortunately the plot twist didn’t either) because I am an RN and just couldn’t wrap my head around Phoenix’s behavior while she was in the hospital. I firmly don’t believe in spoilers but the plot twist was not a realistic occurrence and it threw my nurse-mind for a loop… but the book made me think quite a lot about {certain medical conditions} – is any of it possible? A lot of Phoenix’s life review and finding of meaning in things seemed a little cliche as well – I laughed when she stated it herself! Once I put that aside, I still found the book to be a very readable and enjoyable story.

I give this a solid 3/5 stars, and would not hesitate to recommend it for anyone who enjoys a work of fiction with a twist of romance! Really, it is a great debut novel! I warn you that this book will make you think about your life and might inspire you to call your parents!

As always, thank you for reading! All it takes is an email and a password (no complicated registration) to interact with this website, and I hope you will all let me know that you were here!

Categories
Fiction General Fiction Historical Fiction

In the Far Pashmina Mountains by Janet MacLeod Trotter

Welcome back! I was thrilled to receive my first early reading copy for Kindle from the Goodreads giveaway! Thank you to Goodreads and the Author/publisher for the opportunity!

I rapidly devoured this book despite it’s length (544 pages). We follow the life of main character Alice over the span of about 40 years. It is a story of love and history, with a good deal of adventure, heartbreak, betrayal, beauty and horror, native culture, and so much more.

The characters are developed beautifully throughout, some we love and others – not so much. Whether a bad, good, or grey character, I feel like MacLeod Trotter captures the ethnicity, personality and also age of them in such a real way. Her writing is also vividly descriptive at times, when other times she gets lost in the history. As her author’s note suggests, an obvious mountain of research went into this book!

While I won’t pretend to know anything about the British invasion of Afghanistan and the tribal conflicts, I could feel the horror of the prisoners and stayed up until 0300 to reach the ending. I would have sacrificed some historical details in this part of the book to find out more about what happened to Alice at the end 😉 The ending was tied up very neatly and felt rushed but satisfying.

I would 100% recommend this to anyone interested in historical fiction or romance, or just a great read! It changes settings and introduces new adventures enough to stay very interesting!

As always, thank you for reading! I included a link to the author’s website below!

http://www.janetmacleodtrotter.com/