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.)


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 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Stay With me by Ayobami Adebayo

Stay With Me is Ayobami Adebayo's debut novel about a marriage between two people in Nigeria, a marriage based on lies and the deepest desire to have children in a culture where bearing children is put above loyalty in a marriage.

When I read the summary for Stay With Me, I knew it was going to be an emotional story but I had no idea the scope of heartache I would feel throughout my reading. My heart hurt in equal parts for Yejide, who wants nothing more than to bear a child of her own and for her husband Akin, who's infertility causes such self destruction its almost hard to read with each turn of the page. They both desire the same thing, yet are unable to be open and honest with each other about their heartache.

"It was the lie Id believed in the beginning. Yejide would have a child and we would be happy forever. The cost didn't matter. It didn't matter how many rivers we had to cross. At the end of it all was this stretch of happiness that was supposed to begin only after we had children and not a minute before." p.221

I had to take quite a few breaks throughout my reading of Stay With Me, to cope with my own emotions and process what was happening in the story. Yejide's life is full of devastating losses and heartbreak, so much so that those final pages made my heart ache for her and all that she had lost.

As someone who has dealt with infertility and the desire for children in her own marriage, watching Yejide and Akin struggle was what left me the most emotionally scarred. Everyone handles the struggle of wanting children in their own way and Akin's choice of building a marriage around his lie was the worst thing he could have done. It hurt my heart to watch Yejide discover his lies and see how that affected her own thoughts about herself.

"But the biggest lies are often the ones we tell ourselves. I bit my tongue because I did not want to ask questions. I did not ask questions because I did not want to know the answers. It was convenient to believe m husband was trustworthy; sometimes faith is easier than doubt." P. 233

I'm so glad I read this book, as much as it made my heart hurt and brought a lot of my own emotions to the surface. Thank you to aaknopf for the copy!! I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a story outside their comfort zone, set in a place you're unfamiliar with. Especially if you don't mind shedding a few tears along the way.

Memorable quotes: 

"Besides, what would be left of love without truth stretched beyond its limits, without those better versions of ourselves that we present as the only ones that exist?" p. 75

"The reasons why we do the things we do will not always be the ones that others will remember. Sometimes I think we have children because we want to leave behind someone who can explain who we were to the world when we are gone." p. 119

"You can never cover the truth. Just as nobody can cover the sun's rays with his hands, you can never cover the truth." p.202

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo
260 pages
Published by Aaknopf

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I waited anxiously all summer to read Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, holding on to my ARC copy from Penguin Press and hoping I would have time to read it before my baby was born. Thankfully I did, I ended up finishing it the first weekend we were home from the hospital, during nursing sessions.
"All up and down the street the houses looked like any others- but inside them were people who might be happy, or taking refuge, or steeling themselves to go out into the world, searching for something better." p. 366

One of my favorite things about this story is that it takes place in Shaker Heights, near Cleveland. There were so many references that I could nod my head at and say "YES", like Chagrin Falls and the depressing weather of NE Ohio. Among other things! It really made the story feel more personal, like it was all taking place the next street over from me. 

Celeste Ng has written a powerful family drama with Little Fires Everywhere, one I wasn't able to put down (until I had to!) and created a cast of characters I won't soon forget. I really appreciated Izzy, the youngest sister of the Richardson family and the one misunderstood by most everyone other than Mia Warren. I knew her character was going to evolve and grow throughout the story as she rebelled against the strict black and white morals and perfectly mowed lawns of her life in Shaker Heights. She was by far my favorite character. 

As I read this book I felt an overwhelming feeling as though I was spying on all of the characters through a window of their house, taking a peek into their worst moments and thoughts (looking at you Elena Richardson). Trying to make sense of what makes each of them "tick". What I thought was brilliant was that final scene, where the photographer, Mia, leaves each of Richardsons a photograph. It was like Mia had a glimpse into that window but was also able to figure out each of them. The photographs were extremely personal and telling and I felt this was an excellent bit of closure for her time with their family and all that had occurred. Hopefully a lesson learned on their part as well.

"All her life, she had learned that passion, like fire, was a dangerous thing. It so easily went out of control. It scaled walls and jumped over trenches. Sparks leapt like fleas and spread as rapidly; a breeze could carry embers for miles. Better to control that spark and pass it carefully from one generation to the next, like an Olympic torch. Or perhaps, to tend it carefully like an eternal flame: a reminder of light and goodness that would never- could never- set anything ablaze. Carefully controlled. Domesticated. Happy in captivity." p.174

Overall, I rated this book 4 stars and am excited to share it with other readers! The symbolism of those "little fires" at the beginning of the story really hit home by the time I turned the last page- and thats what I think makes for a brilliant and well written story. I think we all need to take more time to light our own little fires (figuratively of course) and possibly change someones perspective or life. 

Thanks again to Penguin Press for my ARC! Little Fires Everywhere will be out September 12th! 

384 pages
Published by Penguin Press

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride

The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride is the story of a young girl during her first year of drama school and the relationship she has with a twenty year older man that takes place in London during the mid 1990's.

Reading the synopsis on Goodreads, a few reviews and the back of the book I was convince this was a book I was going to enjoy escaping into. A love story, coming of age in a big city, all the hallmarks of something I would normally not be able to put down.

What the synopsis and back of the book did not disclose is McBride's writing style. Written in an almost string of consciousness method, where sentences are met with phrases met with just a word or two in almost a poetic sort of way. This style of writing, to me, is incredibly challenging. I feel like I have to work hard to "get" the story, let alone understand any sort of deeper meaning that the author intended. Feeling frustrated that I was simply rereading certain sections over and over and not really understanding what was going on, I decided to put the book down for a bit.

Unfortunately the writing style really made it hard for me to finish the book and I hope theres a point later on when I will have the ability to really focus on the reading, possibly rereading and absorbing more slowly what the author intended. Right now, this just isn't the book for me.

Have you read this? I'm curious to read more reviews and see what other readers were able to take away from this book.

Thank you to Hogarth books for the copy in exchange for an honest review!

The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride
336 pages
Published by Hogarth