Jennifer's books

Goodbye, Vitamin
American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land
Mrs. Hemingway
Poetry Will Save Your Life: A Memoir
The Princess Diarist
Watch Me Disappear
Hello, Sunshine
Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success
A Man Called Ove
The Heirs
Our Souls at Night
White Fur
Confessions of a Domestic Failure
The Map That Leads to You
The Little French Bistro
Love the Wine You're With
Always and Forever, Lara Jean
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
The Party
New Boy

Jennifer Curry's favorite books »
Showing posts with label Adult Reads. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Adult Reads. Show all posts

Monday, October 22, 2018

Book Review: The Library Book

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

I love narrative nonfiction, and Susan Orlean's The Library Book is nonfiction at its best!

I realize that I am super biased because this book is about books and libraries - two of my ultimate favorite things. I am smart enough to realize that while I will be raving about this book, there will be some that just don't get it. But, if you are someone who loves libraries, then you absolutely need to read this book.

The Library Book is Orlean's retelling of the tragic Los Angeles Public Library burning in 1986. Reading as part true crime and part historical nonfiction, she unfolds the story of the possible arson that destroyed a library and countless books and artifacts by providing readers with the full history of the public library system in California, the librarians who worked there through the years, as well as providing an expose of the arsonist.

Some people may hear this and immediately dismiss it as boring nonfiction - and these people would be wrong. It was entertaining from start to finish. I thoroughly enjoyed reading every single page, and I found myself constantly highlighted passages.

The combination of the crime, plus the gossipy details about who was fired and hired at the library through the ages made for a very interesting read - especially for fans of libraries. There were lines that made me gasp. Lines that made me cheer. And lines that made me feel known as a library lover. I highlighted tons of lines in the book, but here are a few of my favorites:

"In times of trouble, libraries are sanctuaries. They become town squares and community centers - even blood-draw locations."

"Burning books is an inefficient way to conduct a war, since books and libraries have no military value, but it is a devastating act. Destroying a library is a kind of terrorism. People think of libraries as the safest and most open places in society. Setting them on fire is like announcing that nothing, and nowhere, is safe. The deepest effect of burning books is emotional. When libraries burn, the books are sometimes described as being 'wounded' or as 'casualties,' just as human beings would be."

The book is far more than an arson investigation - Orlean discusses how libraries have evolved over time. She describes how famous writers have found their words in libraries - such a Ray Bradbury who wrote his most famous novel on a library typewriter. The book is filled with stories that will make any book lover's heart happy.

This is the first book I have read by the famed author, Susan Orlean, but it certainly will not be my last. If you have someone in your life who adores libraries and books, then this is the gift they need this Christmas.

Thank you, Netgalley, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review! This book was recently published, so hurry out and get it today!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Book Review: The Royal Runaway

The Royal Runaway by Lindsay Emory

Let's talk about books that are fun. I love books that are fun, silly romps even though they may not always be what is on my shelf. For instance, I am a die-hard Princess Diaries fan. I have read all of the Princess Diaries books and, even as an adult, I still love them.

Now, those who know me know that I am also a hardcore royal fan. I gush over the royal family - and even set up a 5 AM mimosa bar for the latest royal wedding. Royals are fun - let's stop pretending they aren't.

So with that being said, I had the pleasure of reading The Royal Runaway last week. It truly was a pleasure. This novel follows a royal princess who runs away (in a sense). This story takes on the fun of royalty and adds in a spy mystery and some romance. In other words, it is a fun, frothy read.

In the novel, Princess Thea is stood up at the altar. Can you imagine? A princess stood up at the altar? I. Can't. Even. That alone captured my attention.

Once she reenters the world, she decides it will be her mission to find out why her fiance did it since she has not spoken to him since the night before the wedding. But, when she meets a man who is also looking for her missing fiance, she begins to do things princesses should never do. Kiss strangers, run away from their own bodyguards, undercover national security breaches, and fall for unacceptable men.

It is not high-brow literature, but it sure is a fun escape read. If you are a fan of royalty, you will love escaping into this royal world.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with this copy to read and review. It will be released on Tuesday!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Book Review: The Little Shop of Found Things

The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston

Once upon a time, I claimed I would never read another book involving time travel, but Paula Brackston's The Little Shop of Found Things has changed my mind.

This book first caught my attention because it is focused on an object called a chatelaine. When I was in high school, I was a member of a dance/drill team called The Chatelaines. A really silly reason to be drawn to a book, but I am so glad that this little detail found me!

The Little Shop of Found Things is set in England modern times and the 17th century. In the novel, readers are introduced to Xanthe and her mother who have recently moved and opened an antique shop in a historic town. Readers also quickly learn that the main character, Xanthe, has a unique gift where she can "read" objects - she can hear the stories of those who used objects in the past. Perfect gift for someone who spends her life living amongst antiques.

Xanthe is instantly drawn to a 17th-century chatelaine; however, what she doesn't know when they purchase the item is that it is also tied to ghost fighting to save the life of her daughter in the past. A time portal is located in Xanthe's backyard and the ghost forces her to go back in time to prove her daughter's innocence - or else.

Okay - I know this sounds a little hooky. But, I promise, it is such an enjoyable escapist read. You can trust me! I am not big on time travel and seldom read anything with ghosts!

Brackston lets the story unfold slowly. This is not a page-turner. However, the way she describes even the smallest details allows readers to also be transported back in time. And, I desperately needed an escape this month.

And, I can't go without letting you know that the novel does have a bit of romance - time travel romance. But, don't expect Outlander. This is tamer.

The Little Shop of Found Things is the first in what is going to be a series, and the author already has me looking forward to the next novel.

Thanks to the author and Netgalley for providing me with this review copy. You can pre-order your copy now - or buy it when it is released on October 16, 2018.

Book Review: What Luck, This Life

What Luck, This Life by Kathryn Schwille

My readers know I am often a fan of depressing books. However, I do like my depressing books to come with a bit of hopefulness. Unfortunately, What Luck, This Life is just bleak and hopeless.

The novel is a collection of vignettes about the lives of those in the small, economically ravished town of Kiser, Texas in the days surrounding when the pieces of the Columbia Space Shuttle made their way from outer space to the grounds of Kiser.

Generally, I like novels that are composed of a wide cast of characters tied together by one commonality. In What Luck, This Life, the author does an excellent job of developing the characters within just a few pages before moving on to describe a new character in the next chapter. There were characters that disgusted me and characters I felt drawn to. Overall, character development was the highlight of the novel for me.

There is not a linear plot in this novel. Instead, each chapter tells the story of the space shuttle's break-up and how it affected the life of the character whose life is the focus in that particular chapter. In this case, the reader gets to meet several different people in this town and experience the tragedy from various viewpoints.

Ultimately, this novel is depressing. There is little hope - or any at all - for the town and its inhabitants. While the writing was strong, it was not a book that was easy to read.

Thanks to the author and Hub City Press for providing me with this review copy. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Book Review: Lies

Lies by T.M. Logan

This book is bonkers! The book cover says "What if your whole life was based on lies," so the bonkers level should be obvious. But, even after finishing it, I still feel like everything that happened was nuts.

Don't get me wrong - it is fun to read things that are crazy every once in a while. In this novel, a man is continually trying to unravel what appears to begin with one little lie from his wife. But the lies grow and grow until it is difficult to tell what is real and what is not.

Joe is a good father and a good husband, but he also appears to be incredible trusting and super naive. When he sees his wife meeting with her best friend's husband at a hotel, some red flags are raised. But, when he learns from her they were just meeting for business, he accepts it.

However, when he sees his wife meeting this man at the hotel, Joe also confronts the man. An altercation happens. And everything begins to fall apart. For example, he learns his wife and this man were having an affair. Then, the best friend discovers the illicit relationship.

Throughout the book, Joe is convinced that the other man is trying to ruin his family and get him sent to jail for a crime he didn't commit. What crime? His murder. Joe is convinced the other husband is framing him and will stop at nothing.

But, as Joe learns, nothing is what it seems.

It is a fast read that will leave you turning pages to discover what is true and what is false. With that being said, when I reached the conclusion, I was disappointed because the truth seemed so insane to me. If you read this one, I would love know your thoughts too!

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this copy for review purposes! It was just released in the US. Happy reading.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Book Review: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Every now and then, I try to read a book that stretches me. A book that is out of my comfort zone. A book I would not usually pick up.

Sometimes these new-to-me genres get a round of applause and other times they get tossed aside. The novel, The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, was a definite stretch for me, but I am glad I read it. Even if I still do not understand it...

Here is the book blurb:

"Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 11:00 p.m. 
There are eight days, and eight witnesses for you to inhabit. 
We will only let you escape once you tell us the name of the killer. 
Understood? Then let's begin...

Evelyn Hardcastle will die. Every day until Aiden Bishop can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others..."

I put the blurb here because I am afraid I cannot put the plot into words adequately. The plot is very unique. Essentially, the novel weaves back and forth in time over the course of eight days with the main character waking in the body of various hosts.

Add in that this all takes place at a crumbling estate where the estate owners are celebrating the return of their daughter, Evelyn, on the anniversary of the murder of their son. Then, add in rivals who are also trying to solve the murder while being hosted in other party guests' bodies - and you have a whole lot going on.

For me, I found the plot and the idea very enjoyable. The characters were well developed and well nuanced. That was probably my favorite part of the novel.

However, I am not a true mystery reader. Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie are often difficult for me. Not because they aren't enjoyable but because I am not used to reading mysteries and paying attention to every single detail. In a book like Evelyn Hardcastle, I almost felt like I needed to keep my own detective's notepad. And, for some people, that sounds like a dream! For me, it was just a little hard to keep up with.

With that being said, I am glad I read it and believe there will be many (many) who will love the novel. Those who are fans of mysteries and time travel will especially enjoy it.

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this copy to read and review! This book will be released September 18th, 2018.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Book Review: The Other Woman

The Other Woman by Sandie Jones

Think your mother-in-law is evil? You need to read The Other Woman by Sandie Jones.

The Other Woman is a fun, quick, thrill ride with characters that will drive you nuts. Emily has met the man of her dreams, Adam. But, Adam's mom, Pammie, is not her biggest fan.

The novel begins by introducing the couple and showing readers how they meet and fall in love. Then, readers meet Pammie as Emily is introduced to her the first time. From their very first meeting, it is clear Pammie is ready to engage in some major psychological warfare.

At first, Pammie seems simply manipulative and possessive when it comes to her son. But, as the pages turn, it becomes more obvious that Pammie is not merely manipulative - she is diabolically evil. She will stop at nothing to prevent her son from marrying Emily. She is the ultimate Monster-In-Law.

As it becomes clear Pammie is trying to stop this wedding, my spider senses started tingling. Something about the whole thing just did not make sense to me. Why was Adam such a pushover? Why couldn't he see what his mom was doing? Why on earth would Emily still want to marry into this family of crazy?

Without giving anything away, I can tell you that the plot does thicken. I figured it out - and I am betting you will, too. However, that won't make the ride any less fun.

I flew through the book. It is one of those page-turners that you just can't stop reading - even when you know it is insane. It's like trying not to look at a wreck on the side of the road - you just have to look, right?

If you are looking for a fast-paced, lightweight thriller to get you out of a reading slump (or to make you feel better about your own in-laws), then this is the book for you!

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with a copy to read and review!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Book Review: Rush

Rush by Lisa Patton

If you were a member of a Southern sorority (or wanted to be) and/or you loved the book/film The Help, then this is the book for you.

Rush, by Lisa Patton, is true-blue Southern fiction. As someone who was fully entrenched in my sorority during my school years at Georgia State University, reading this book was like going to a college reunion.

When Patton began describing the rush ("recruitment") events, it was like I went back in time. Things I thought I had forgotten came rushing back. I loved feeling sentimental about things like rush parties, bids, and the entire process.

But, what this book more enjoyable is that while it focuses on sorority life from the lens of a mother/alum acting as an advisor the year her daughter (and legacy) goes through recruitment, there is more to the story.

This not simply a novel about mother/legacy rush bonding. It is a novel that also brings the people who work hard behind the scenes to life - those who keep the house running smoothly. Readers get to know the house mother, the housekeeper, the house cooks, and the rest who are paid little to make the lives of the wealthy even better.

Set in Ole Miss, this novel brings to light racial issues still occurring to this day/ At some points, I found them cringe-worthy, which I believe was the point. It is very hard in 2018 to think these things still exist, but as someone who grew up in the South can attest, racism is alive and well. This added element brought a level of depth to a novel that would have been lacking without it.

This novel is sugary-sweet, so if you are not a fan of sap, you may want to pass on this one. But, for the rest of us, it is a perfect read that will leave you feeling hopeful.

Thank you to Netgalley and Lisa Patton for providing me with a copy to read and review! This one will be released August 21, 2018.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Book Review: Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win

Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza

This novel is a fast read with an even faster ending. I loved it. I loved it so much that I was totally bummed when it ended because I wanted it to keep going.

Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win is a novel about a high-powered, successful wife and a mom to three young kids who decides to run for Senate back in the state she grew up in - Pennsylvania. She moves her family from Silicon Valley back to her childhood home during the election season.

First, I recognize that this does not sound like an appealing topic to many people. Politics - ugh. But, while obviously this book is set in the world of politics, it is not just about politics. I need you to trust me here. I know very little about politics beyond the headlines I read on social media - and I can admit I don't know how everything works. But, that didn't stop me from devouring this book in two sittings. (And, if I wasn't hosting a house full of people, it probably would have been one sitting.)

Next, this novel is full of family drama (my favorite). Readers learn about Charlotte's family life and her marriage, as well as her childhood. She grew up with a heavily medicated mother and a drunk father. She left her hometown and never looked back - until now. Her current life seems idyllic, but it isn't. She is already dealing with marriage issues, and now she is dealing with the balance of power shifting as he becomes a stay-at-home dad.

Additionally, the novel shows the nastiness of politics - how things get twisted and manipulated to help one side and hurt the other. Plus, it shows how it feels to be a woman in what has traditionally been a man's world. Readers will see how Charlotte both struggles with bringing her opponent down using unsavory tactics and later how she embraces it. It is realistic and disheartening.

Finally, I loved the novel because the characters are far from perfect, but the author does a great job of making you see past their flaws and into their hearts. Charlotte is not perfect and has made some big mistakes, but I rooted for her from the beginning. Plus, we see the other characters mess up and also see why they made the decisions they did.

My only problem with the book is that it ends very abruptly. I kept trying to get my kindle to turn to one more page, but it isn't there! I wanted to a big resolution, but after sleeping on it, I now understand that the book wasn't about the result. Instead, the book is about Charlotte's journey.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review! It was released last week. It is a perfect summer read or a book to read right around the midterm elections.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Unexpected: Learning to love your unpredictable story

Unexpected: Learning to love your unpredictable story 

By Brittany A. Meng

My friend, a fellow blogger, just published her first book! She provided me with a copy of her new book, and I have a feeling many of my readers will love her words.

This book is a short collection of personal stories and meditations about the times in the author's life when she was forced to deal with the unexpected. As a mom and military wife, many of her stories will resonate with women in similar seasons of life. For example, she openly shares her feelings about how she walked through an Autism diagnosis for a child and a miscarriage (and more of life's unexpected twists and turns).

There are many things I loved about this book. First, the short stories and reflections are the perfect length for busy, overwhelmed moms. Second, while the author uses the Bible as a key source of strength and guide for reflections, it is not your standard "if God leads you to it, He will lead you through it" verbiage.

Instead, Brittany gives women the freedom to know it is okay to not be okay. It is okay to question why you are dealing with the unexpected - and it is even okay to ask God why. 

I love when we use our stories to help others - and this is exactly what Brittany is doing with Unexpected.

For anyone who has felt hopeless or alone, this short book will be a healing tool. You will read it and say, "me too." Brittany will help you feel less alone, and by the end, you will feel hopeful once again. 

You can purchase her book on Amazon (or as a Kindle ebook) today! 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Book Review: Girls' Night Out

Girls' Night Out by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

I had high hopes for this one, but sadly, it left me feeling very disappointed.

*After seeing all the hype it is getting, I appear to be the outsider here. But, if you give me a minute, I will explain. Also, I feel bad giving a negative review on a popular book, but I can't lie. It was so not my favorite.

This novel is about three estranged friends who travel to Mexico on a girls' trip to mend fences, but along the way, one of the girls goes missing. I purposely read this book at the end of my own girls' trip to Mexico, so I think my experience (and friendships) greatly influenced my feelings.

Ashley is the loud on the group and the one that goes missing. I hated Ashley. She came off as obnoxious and stupid, honestly. For example, she spends her time on the girls' trip with a local guy she just met talking about spiritual crystals and whatnot (she's married, by the way). And, she does not seem to understand why her friends might be upset with her.

Lauren is the most estranged from the group because her husband died from a heart attack when Ashley convinced her to leave him because he was beating her. So, she's mad at Ashley for "killing her husband." I can't even with this one. Oh, and she apparently has a sex addiction now.

Natalie is Ashley's actual BFF and company partner, but she wants out. The problem is she has zero backbone and just won't be honest and tell her friend that her family is in desperate need of the money they'd get from selling the company to Revlon. Oh, and she woke up from being blacked out on the beach the night her BFF went missing.

The novel is basically a series of whining and arguing and talking behind each other's backs. This is the stuff of high school (or college at the most), but THESE ARE FORTY-YEAR-OLD WOMEN! Um, no. I am nearing forty and my friends and I do not act anything like the women in this book.

The climax and ending were disappointing, mainly because I hated the characters so much. I didn't really care what happened to them or who did it. All I thought the whole time was that this was a very immature view of adult female friendships and women, in general.

It was unrelatable and unbelievable. But, then again, maybe it is because I have been lucky enough to have friendships based on love and respect. I say pass on this one unless grown women acting like thirteen-year-olds sounds appealing to you.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with a copy to read and review. I wish I had liked it more!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Book Review: Her Pretty Face

Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding

If you are looking for a book with pages that seem to turn on their own, then you need to read Her Pretty Face, the new release from the author of last summer's hit, The Party.

This novel tells the story of a stay-at-home mom named Francis who is really struggling to fit in with the other moms at her son's new uppity private school. But, then, she meets fellow school mom, Kate. The two women instantly click and embark on a whirlwind friendship. They practically become besties overnight.

However, Francis begins to slowly notice that Kate is a little wilder than her beautiful, classy look suggests. For example, she convinces Francis to take off her wedding ring to flirt with some men they meet at an impromptu during-the-school-day wine lunch, and she later seems to put the moves on Francis's husband.

But, the big turning point is when Francis discovers Kate is not really Kate at all. Instead, she is someone else completely - new name, new identity. And, the person she left behind in the past is notorious for a gruesome crime.

Once Francis finds out Kate's secret, it then turns to a question of whether or not she can (or should) trust her new BFF or if she should end the friendship and protect her family. As Francis has no other friends, this is a bigger decision for her than it would be for others.

In addition to a fast-paced, intriguing plot that left me guessing, I liked how the novel was told from three different viewpoints. And, I like how one of the viewpoints surprised me. I also like how Harding has a teenage daughter thrown into the mix. Like her previous novel, the plot seems outlandish, but the questions she poses are important (such as what is she hiding behind HER PRETTY FACE? dun-dun-dun).

Thanks to Netgalley and the author for providing me with a copy to read and review!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Book Review: The Last Time I Lied

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

If you are looking for a 4th of July thriller, then the latest novel from Riley Sager is a solid choice. It is set in a prestigious all-girl summer camp in the Northeast that may or may not be haunted.

This novel follows the story of Emma Davis, a woman who stayed at the camp fifteen years prior when each of her cabin mates (3 in total) disappeared without a trace on the 4th of July. They were never seen again and their bodies were never found. Thirteen-year-old Emma has been haunted ever since.

Now, as an adult, Emma is strangely invited back to the grand reopening of the camp by the original founder to teach the campers art. She agrees because she is determined to find out what happened to her friends. She ends up back in the same cabin with three teenage girls who seem to share the same fate as the girls in the same cabin fifteen years ago.

However, it is no easy task. On top of the general mystery, it becomes clear that someone (or something) does not want her there and will do whatever it must to keep her from finding the truth.

The novel moves quickly - not because your adrenaline is pumping, but simply because you want to know the answer. It is not an intense horror story. Some may label it a thriller, but it read more like a mystery to me.

Unfortunately for me, I ended up feeling a little let down by the end. I feel this is only because I enjoyed Sager's previous novel Final Girls so much. I was expecting the same kind of thrills and chills, but it didn't happen for me. Instead, when one of the biggest mysteries was solved, I ended up shaking my head in disappointment. It was not even the smallest bit believable for me and just did not add up.

With that being said, I do believe others will like it - especially if you have not read Sager's previous novel and do not have the same expectations as I did. But, if you want my honest opinion, I say go with Final Girls instead if you have to choose.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with this copy to read and review!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

My Favorite 9 Reads of 2018...So Far

Can you believe we are halfway through 2018? I can't. Even though the year has been busy and filled with fun, I have found time to read my way through 60 books! Since I am often asked for recommendations, I have gone through my Goodreads 2018 shelf and selected the books that have left the biggest impressions on me so far.

My Favorite 9 Reads of 2018

I narrowed the list from 60 to 9 in a very scientific manner - Instagram layout only allows for 9 photos, so there you go. With that being said, these are the books that I either read as quickly as possible because they were so entertaining or books that have stayed on my mind weeks/months after I closed the last page.

To make it easy on you, I am telling you why you should read it in one to two sentences only!

Biggest Surprise

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan

I did not expect much from this book, but I ended up loving the way the story unfolded through letters and stories. It is the kind of book that makes you want to sit in a comfy chair with a cup of coffee/tea/glass of wine and savor each word.

Best Thrill

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

If you are looking for a thriller, check this one out! Full of Alfred Hitchcock and old movie talk, this book reads like a modern Hitchcock film with an ending I did not see coming.

Most Emotionally Satisfying 

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

Full of quirky characters and music lyrics, this book filled me up. It is the kind of book I will not soon forget and one that I will likely go back to when I am going through a hard time.

Best Audiobook

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

The book, itself, has received tons of praise - and it is well deserved! I listened to the audiobook version, and I found myself unable to stop listening even for a second because I had to know what decisions the characters would make.

Best Cry for Women

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

If you want a good book cry, you read Kristin Hannah. On top of the usual tearfest, this one set in the wilderness of Alaska made me think it should be advertised as Hatchet for women.

Faith for the Rest of Us Pick

The Very Worst Missionary by Jamie Wright

A former missionary, Jamie Wright tells her story from salvation to the mission field and back again. She is crass and crude (this is not your run-of-the-mill Christian memoir), but she will make you think about missions in a new way.

Best Romantic Comedy

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

This was a book I picked up and didn't put down until I finished. It reads just like a movie, and the male lead is the female lead's grumpy Scottish physical therapist.

Best Historical Fiction

The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

Murder, family drama, scandals, secrets, and a love across the wrong side of the tracks plot line is always a good choice. Set it in an interesting time in history and you have a winner! *Releasing July 10, 2018

Best Fun Frothy Read

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

I am super late to the party on this one, but the movie preview made me finally check this one out. And, I totally get the hype, and so will you!

Which books have been your favorite reads so far this year? Let me know!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Book Review: All We Ever Wanted

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

This is what I consider a horror novel. There isn't blood and guts or a killer at large, but the plot itself felt like I was reading a horror novel. It made me tense, queasy, and anxious. While reading, I kept wanting to know who the photographer was and thinking, "This is my worst nightmare."

But, but, but... I am by no means telling you NOT to read it. Instead, I am telling you the exact opposite. Giffin has stretched herself with this one and has moved far from her rom-com writing days to write a novel that will scare the crap out of parents with teenagers or soon-to-be teenagers. Taking the plot straight from the headlines, she writes a layered novel that will make parents less likely to say, "My kid would never..."

All We Ever Wanted tells the story of the aftermath of a teenage girl, Lyla, who has a little too much to drink at a high school party and finds out the next day that a picture that was taken when she was blacked-out and exposes her breast with a derogatory racist caption is being shared throughout the entire school community. The aftermath is told through the eyes of Lyla, her father (Tom), and the mother of the boy who is accused is taking and sharing the photograph (Nina).

Set within an upper-crust elite private school, there are racial issues and socio-economic factors at play as well. Here is where Giffin does something different: Nina, the mother of the possible photo taker and distributor, does not blindly jump to her son's defense. Instead, she searches for the truth and reevaluates her son's and her husband's characters.

Giffin does a great job of showing how these things happen and the possible consequences. The book is a fast read - especially because the reader will want to know the truth and rush to find it. Side note - the truth is unclear throughout the novel, which I really appreciated.

I finished the novel a couple of days ago, but I had to sit on it before I reviewed it because...the ending. The ending will leave your mouth hanging opened and your fists shaking at the ceiling. And, you will still have questions. But, now that I have had time to digest it, I appreciate the ending because I feel like it is clearly representative of how you would hear these types of stories from a friend - like a glimpse back over the shoulder without all the details but just the key points.

Trigger warning - This book deals with sexual assault and personal harm.

All We Ever Wanted was released this week and will be a great book club pick or summer read.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with this copy to read and review!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Book Review: The Faith of Dolly Parton

The Faith of Dolly Parton: Lessons from Her Life to Lift Your Heart by Dudley Delffs

Anyone who knows me knows I am a big Dolly Parton fan. But, can I fill you in on a little secret? I don't love her because of her music. I like her music enough, but I really just love who she is as a person. So, naturally, when I saw there was a book about her faith, I jumped at the chance to read and review it. And, it didn't disappoint!

"When I talk about the spiritual role models in my life who continue to inspire me, most people laugh or raise their eyebrows when I include Dolly on that list. But why not? In a world filled with so much turmoil, division, strife, and conflict, Miss Dolly models a kind of Christian faith that manages to be authentic, positive, hopeful, and contagious." - From The Faith of Dolly Parton

The Faith of Dolly Parton is part biography, part author memoir, and part devotional. In addition to learning about Dolly's life and her spiritual beliefs, the author intersperses the stories with personal stories of his own. I loved that the author is a forever fan of Dolly and that his love for her shines through in his own life stories. Then, at the end of each chapter, the author provides several faith-based questions, as well as a song to listen to based on the chapter theme, and a prayer. For a Dolly fan, I loved this format. I appreciated how the author made the book not only a standard biography, but he also made it a book that can work as a devotional of sorts.

I loved learning new things about Dolly's life in what I felt was a quick and easy read. I especially liked how often the author referred to Dolly's own quotes. She is funny and smart - and she knows how to use both to her and everyone else's benefits.

If your only knowledge of Dolly is her unique body shape, then you are missing out. Dolly has made a difference in her home state of Tennessee over and over again, and she continues to make a difference through Imagination Library for kids around the world. 

If you love Dolly like I do, then you will enjoying starting your morning with this one. Happy reading!

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this copy to read and review!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Book Review: Everybody Always

Everybody Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People by Bob Goff

“God doesn’t see people the way I do, though. The ones I see as problems, God sees as sons and daughters, made in His image.”

When I picture Bob Goff, I picture a boisterous, fun, loving, Young Life leader. All the adults I have met who have worked in Young Life have charisma – and they love well. Just like listening to these types of people speak is engaging, Bob Goff’s shining personality also breaks through on the pages of his books. After reading Love Does and finding it inspiring, I was thrilled to hear about the release of his new book, Everybody Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People.

Then, my wish was granted by Netgalley and the book was in my hands. And, the title alone made me hesitate. Everybody always? That’s tough. Honestly, I’m more of an everybody sometimes, a few people most of the time, and nobody somedays kind of gal. Factor in that my church was doing a series on being welcome, and I just about had enough of God using people to tell me to be more loving and kind to every single person you meet.

But, I read the book anyway. As expected, the book is convicting and engaging. While hearing some of Goff’s stories about loving even the most difficult people made me squirm, I can recognize the Biblical importance of the message – even if I don’t want to. And, Goff is simply a master when it comes to words. I feel like half of the things he writes in this book will end up on canvases or throw pillows or something. For example:

“Sometimes when we ask God for an answer, He sends us a friend.”

“It’s given me a lot of comfort knowing we’re all rough drafts of the people we’re still becoming.”

“People will figure out what we really believe by what we actually do.”

 “We’ll become in our lives what we do with our love. Those who are becoming love don’t throw people off roofs; they lower people through them instead.”

You see what I mean? Good stuff in the book, you guys. But, also challenging stuff. I am nowhere near where I should be when it comes to loving everybody always. I have a LONG way to go.

With that being said, I do not agree with everything Goff says. I think he means well, but some of his advice does not seem to fit in my life. For example, Goff places heavy emphasis on the importance of where important conversations take place. I get the idea, but I am also not wealthy enough to meet with my friends at Disneyland just to have a talk – nor are most of my friends. Plus, I work at home with my two children. For me, it is more important to pray for wisdom and discernment regarding what I say rather than where I say it. I have had some very important conversations with friends in loud fast food play areas.

Thanks so much for the free copy to read and review, Netgalley!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Book Review: The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go

The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go by Amy E. Reichert

I have heard wonderful things about Amy E. Reichert's book, so when the opportunity to read her latest arrived, I jumped at the chance. It is a sweet story about mothers and daughters and relationships. The title, the cover, and the plot are all things that many of my friends will be drawn to.

For me, the book was good, but it wasn't memorable or one that I will tell everyone they have to read. However, that doesn't mean it is bad. It is sweet and hopeful - which can be perfect if you are in the need for something like that. Basically, it embodies the title - it is optimistic.

Gina is a young widow whose mother Lorraine is not the kindest mother in the world. Gina's daughter, May, is a teenager who lost her father. She is dealing with some stuff. So, when Gina's condescending mother suffers a stroke, the whole family is drawn together where Gina learns more about her mom. Ultimately, I believe this big reveal is supposed to help Gina understand her mother, but it left gaps for me. For example, if her mother suffered this way, then why did she treat her daughters the way she did growing up? What made her act like such a snob if she saw how it hurt her?

Basically, I was really irritated with the mother/grandmother most of the book. But, I loved the teenage daughter. She brought another layer to the story - especially when it came to the juxtaposition between her relationship with Gina and Gina's relationship with her own mother.

The book has plenty of humorous moments coupled with moving moments. I did not cry, but I believe others readers probably will. The book definitely has a Hallmark movie feel - and that is not necessarily a bad thing! For some readers, that is just what they are looking for.

This book was just released, so if it sounds like your type of thing, check it out! Thaks to Netgalley for providing me with this advanced reader's copy for review!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Book Review: The Favorite Sister

The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll

Jessica Knoll is following her super popular novel, Luckiest Girl Alive, with The Favorite Sister. It is perfect for women who love cat fights, the Real Housewives, and books about toxic friendships.

For me, it took a little bit of time to get into. However, this may be because I have never been a fan of the Real Housewives series. Keeping up with the characters in the beginning was a little hard for me, but again, maybe it is because I am not used to it.

About halfway in, I did get into the plot and wanted to know what was happening and why.

This book is about a group of women cast in a Real Housewives show - however, these women are not housewives. They are all successful businesswomen. But, the same types of rivalry abound. So much so that there are literal cat fights and someone dies.

That is not a *spoiler* Readers find out in the first pages that a cast member has died before the season airs. However, you do not find out what actually happens until the last couple of pages. Since all the women are untrustworthy and out for themselves, readers will have moments where they suspect everyone.

I found all the characters appalling (well, except for one - I'll let you figure that one out as you read), but the drama was addictive. And, I don't think the title is the best fit.

Ultimately, this book will not make you smarter, but it will be a fun read for many. And, I think everyone will walk away feeling thankful they are NOT on a reality show.

*This book will be released tomorrow (5/15/18) just in time for summer!

*Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with an advanced reader's copy!

Book Review: Sorority

Sorority by Genevieve Sly Crane

I read Sorority by Crane over a week ago, but I've been sitting on it wondering how exactly to review it. You see, the book is not your average summer page-turner full of plot twists. Instead, it is a series of vignettes about various sorority sisters who all lived in the house when a tragedy occurred. Rather than unfolding as a linear plot, it works more as a variety of separate but connected short stories. The stories are connected through the house and the sister who is no longer alive, Margot. As someone who is a fan of short stories, I loved the way this novel works. But, I suspect others may be surprised by the format.

Next, Sorority is a work of fiction. However, it is apparent that the writer knows some "secret sorority" stuff that anyone who has participated in Greek life will recognize such as rituals and Big/Little relationships. As a former sorority girl, I loved those parts of the book! But, it is important to point out that, again, this is a work of fiction. If you read it expecting it to be like the undercover memoir Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities, you have the wrong idea. (Side note - I loved Pledged for different reasons).

As a work of fiction, Crane is able to tell stories that seem realistic and far-fetched at the same time. For example, in my sorority years, there were young women who had some run-ons with drugs, but unlike drugs in the book, they involved weed or Ritalin. In the book, drugs are an everyday experience in this house - and wind up contributing to a death. There is a sister who has an odd job as a naked sushi model and I had some sisters that worked as shot girls in bars. Similar in the modeling aspect, but very different. Do you see what I mean?

I have seen where some readers have taken issue with the antics of the sorority girls in the book, but I just want to say, it is fiction! I enjoyed it! And, I really liked how it was more of a character story than a fast-paced book based on a scintillating plot. I thought it was interesting how Crane showed her different women behaved and how they were (or were not) affected by the tragedy. Too often, people mistake sororities as being filled with a bunch of look-alikes and act-alikes, when anyone who has been in one will tell you this is far from the truth. Sorority does a fine job of showing that is just the case.

Sorority by Genevieve Sly Crane was just released in time for the summer (and before fall recruitment begins).

*Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with this advanced reader's copy.