Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter was graciously sent to my by Grove Atlantic a few weeks ago. Its a rather slim book, one that I knew I could pick up and read fairly quickly. You guys. This book! I finished it within an hour and had so much to process once I was finished...for such a small book it packs quite an emotional punch, especially as a mother.

Written in snippets and short paragraphs, The End We Start From reads almost like a journal. Other characters are named simply by their first initial and the narrator, the mother of baby Z, spends more time talking about her emotions and surroundings than actual or details of events taking place. I love books written this way, where I feel a more realistic connection with the main character and maybe less so with the setting events taking place. I felt completely immersed in the cocoon of warmth between mother and baby, their lives reliant solely upon the other despite the chaos surrounding them. With my own baby still newly here I felt so much of what the mother was feeling first hand, that dreamlike state nursing gives you in the early still dark morning hours, how that connection between yourself and this little being is so absolute. For me, it made this story all the more real and emotional.

"The gasping latch, and his breathing slows in the dark. The world inflates and deflates with him, a giant bellows." p. 52

Paired with the dread and panic surrounding them, the unknown of the everyday, there is so much hope wrapped up in baby Z as his mother marvels at his every growth and achievement. I really thought the ending was so perfect. R, the husband, I could honestly have cared less about. He seemed so unimportant, especially when he leaves them behind. Reading through each passage of hope and perseverance between mother and child made this story less of an apocalyptic doomsday type story and more of a study on how a mother's love for her child and a child's absolute dependence on their mother transcends all things. The world falling down around you and this love remains constant. How beautiful is that?

I highly recommend this story. Its beautiful, precise and brilliantly written. I cannot wait to read more from Megan Hunter! Thank you Grove Atlantic for my copy!



Monday, November 13, 2017

A Selfie As Big As The Ritz by Lara Williams


One of my favorite things about short story collections is the window they give you into an author's writing. (Not to mention during busy weeks, I can pick up a collection of stories and feel satisfied with a few pages of reading!)

A Selfie As Big As The Ritz by Lara Williams was sent to me by Flatiron Books in exchange for a honest review. I'm so grateful! I had read a few reviews on my own regarding Williams' writing and was excited to see for myself why everyone was loving it.

Some of the stories in this collection are just so beautiful, in an unassuming sneak up on you kind of way. I would turn a page, realizing it was the last and promptly start back at the beginning, letting Williams' words wash over me. I needed that second reading to really sink my teeth into the writing, some of it was so emotionally driven and real. Other parts just really funny and clever.

One of the stories, the very first one to be exact, It Begins, is so powerful. The final paragraph, the character sinking her hands into the earth, so simple but just right. I love a story that is more just a vignette, a camera shot, a group of stills that culminate a character's life. If an author can pull that off successfully in a few pages, gosh. I knew after reading It Begins that my opinion of this collection of stories being something I could read during pickup or at the doctor's office was incorrect. I needed quiet and solitude so I could reflect after each one.

This Small Written Thing was another powerful story for me, one that read almost like poetry? Or maybe the emotion was so well written that I was really able to just immerse myself and feel for Flora, the words carrying me along until I was able to picture myself climbing into that bed at the end. This sentence, "The performance of love and the fire of it; an endless negotiation; a series of audience asides, of controlled explosions." Wow.

I cannot say enough how much I enjoyed this book of stories. I know if I had read this ten years ago, at age 23, I would've had a completely different experience. That certain stories would have affected me differently, others would have left me wondering. I'm' so glad I had the opportunity to read this now, almost ten years into my marriage and at a point in life that allowed so many of these stories to move me emotionally. Well done, Lara Williams! And thank you again Flatiron Books for the copy!

A Selfie As Big As The Ritz by Lara Williams 
160 pages
Published by Flatiron Books

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende


After receiving an early copy of Isabel Allende's In the Midst of Winter from Atria books I couldn't wait to get started reading it. I've enjoyed many of Allende's books in the past, her writing is so fluid and engaging. I often feel her characters are written so well that I have a hard time leaving them behind once the story is finished. In the Midst of Winter was no different! 

Richard, Evelyn and Lucia are each lost in their own way and in a weird (and honestly somewhat contrived) set of circumstances they come together during a blizzard in New York City one winter. Told in alternating chapters and flashbacks, we slowly learn how each of them made their way to America from their home countries. Sharing similar themes of perseverance amidst struggle and hardship, pain and suffering, Allende weaves a story that makes you hurt for these three people and question what you may think you know about a person sitting across from you on a bus or in a restaurant. We all have a story to tell. 

I found the chapters that took place in the past far more engaging and interesting than the present day situation the three characters found themselves in. That story line seemed a bit far fetched and hard to swallow at times, making me skim quickly to get to the next flashback. I loved learning about each character's life far more than what they were going to do with the dead body in the trunk. 

That being the only drawback I found in this book, I rated it 3.5 stars on Goodreads. Thank you Atria books for the advance copy in exchange for my honest review! 

352 pages
Published by Atria Books



Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine


The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine can officially stay on my bookshelves, as it is a thriller that kept me guessing, had twisty and interesting characters told from multiple view points and an ending I wasn't expecting. Thank you Harper Books for not only the ARC and the finished copy, but also for sending me a thriller I actually enjoyed reading all the way through (and honestly had a hard time putting down).

I'm kind of a picky thriller reader. I get frustrated with stories that seem SO out of the realm of the real world or characters that are just AWFUL, completely unlikeable that I don't really care what happens to them by the end of the story. Usually I feel like they deserved everything they got.

Theres been a few thrillers lately that I've reviewed and really enjoyed...The Last Mrs. Parrish by sister writers working under the name Liv Constantine is definitely going on that list. I LOVED this story line, how the characters were introduced, the way the viewpoint shifted halfway through. The subtleness. It reminded me of a Hitchcock in some ways.

This is the story of an unhappy marriage, a wealthy husband, a wife hiding behind a facade because she has no other choice and a third woman who is determined to have it all for herself. I liked Daphne, but I also liked Amber (she had some serious stamina and dedication to her cause, haha). There were a few cringe moments where I had to shake off what I was reading but mostly, the twisted lives of the two women and Jackson Parrish left me thinking every time I put the book down.

If you are looking for a great thriller, I highly recommend The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine. It was quite a fun and wicked read!


The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine 
400 pages
published by Harper Books

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks by Annie Spence

THIS BOOK. Oh you guysssss. Are you a book lover? Of course you are. You're here reading this or follow thousands of bookstagrammers on Instagram. So OF COURSE you love books. Guess what? Me too. And I was SO excited when Caroline Bleeke from Flatiron Books granted my book wishes and sent me a copy of Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence. It's a gem of a book. A GEM. So tiny, such a sweet illustrated cover and chock full of letters to books from a book lover, librarian and all around just really witty lady. This book made me laugh, made me roll my eyes and made me feel melancholy, thinking of life before my kiddos and life when I'm old and gray. The feelings you guys! ALL OF THEM. 

So here is a little letter to Miss Annie Spence, if she should ever happen upon this post out on the inter webs. 

Dear Annie, 

Can I call you Annie? Is that okay? I feel like after spending all day with you and your lovely little book of letters we are kinda friends, ya know? I feel like I KNOW you. On a friend level but also on a BOOK LOVER level and every one who loves books knows what I mean by that. 

You book, Dear Fahrenheit 451, oh gosh. Where to even begin? I loved it. I loved it the way I love a warm mug of hot chocolate and my fuzzy striped blanket on a cold winter Saturday afternoon. I cozied up with your book the other day and didn't want to put it down until I had finished. (But I did, because, kids.) You are so witty! The letter to the fancy bookshelf in the fancy apartment, yes. Been there. Wondering who in the world bought books just for "show" and where the creased spine thrillers or romance novels are really hidden. Mostly when I was babysitting for wealthy people, not so much at any fancy parties but same thing, I think. 
The truck book? YES. I can relate. So many of those board books make me want to bang my head against a wall, but oh for the joy of cultivating a reader, do I read them again and again. Thankfully we've moved on to The Magic Treehouse but even so....
Twilight? Yes. All the same sentiments except I probably would have picked it up off the table for a quarter at the end. Its Edward!! I mean Jacob. I MEAN EDWARD. 
My favorite letter was to The Time Traveler's Wife. By far. I read it myself when I was in my early twenties and I haven't reread it in years. Certainly not since I've had children or persevered through trials in my marriage. This letter spoke to me in a way only a true book lover friend can and made me promptly pull it off my shelf for a much needed reread. 
Oh there were many more letters that struck a chord. I can't name them all. But I loved each one for some reason or another (whether a witty quip about an outdated book or a truth laid bare that made me think). I also appreciated the list of actual book recommendations in the back. Thank you! My copy of The Wilds thanks you as well. 

So, dear Annie, my new found book lover friend. Can we be pen pals? 

Love a fellow book lover and conscientious library patron (I haven't accrued any fines in over two years. Thats a record AND a fact.)

Renée



Tuesday, October 10, 2017

New Release: The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

One of my most anticipated releases for this fall is The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman! Huge thanks to Simon Books for the copy to read and review!

The prequel to Practical Magic, The Rules of Magic takes us into the world of the Owens sisters, this time focusing on the Aunts from Practical Magic. I cannot wait to start this because I just loved the way Hoffman intertwined magic and real life in her first book and I know The Rules of Magic won't be any different! The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman is out today, October 10th!

Heres a quick synopsis from Goodreads:

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

“I can turn to that day as though it were a page in a book. It’s written so deeply upon my mind I can almost taste the ink.” 

Hannah Kent's Burial Rites is one of those books that sticks with you long after you've turned the last page. I remember finishing this book and feeling utterly depleted- in a good way! You know that feeling, after you've immersed yourself entirely in a story and then its just....over. I couldn't let go of Agnes, the brutal coldness of Iceland or the feeling of isolation Agnes felt while living with the hardworking family who kept her until her trial. A story based on the life of the last woman executed in Iceland, Agnes Magnudottir, and the events leading up to the crime that she is accused of. 

"To know what a person has done, and to know who a person is, are very different things." 

Told in multiple narrative (Agnes, the priest called to talk with Agnes and the mother of the family keeping Agnes before her trial), Burial Rites plays on what is good and evil, the ethics of capital punishment and what it means to judge another person. I found Agnes's narrative to be the most compelling and it was her character that I have been unable to let go of, even after all this time. The bleak surroundings as well as the future in front of Agnes means this is not a lighthearted or happy story. But its message is sound and its story compelling, in a way that holds on to you.

A few of my favorite quotes: 

“Any woman knows that a thread, once woven, is fixed in place; the only way to smooth a mistake is to let it all unravel.” 

“God has had His chance to free me, and for reasons known to Him alone, He has pinned me to ill fortune, and although I have struggled, I am run through and through with disaster; I am knifed to the hilt with fate.” 

“I remain quiet. I am determined to close myself to the world, to tighten my heart and hold what has not yet been stolen from me. I cannot let myself slip away. I will hold what I am inside, and keep my hands tight around all the things I have seen and heard, and felt.” 

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent 
314 pages
Published by Little Brown