Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Things That Happened Before The Earthquake by Chiara Barzini

I recently finished Things That Happened Before the Earthquake by Chiara Barzini and couldn't wait to share my review! Told in three sections, TTHBTE is a story about Eugenia who is an Italian teenage girl trying to find her place in either her home country (Italy) or nineties LA (where her parents move their family at the start of the book).

So much of this story is relatable on the level of being a teenage girl who doesn't quite fit in. A girl trying to find a place as the "new girl" among different ethnic groups and cliques at her high school, trying to reconcile her family and their annoying tendencies at they navigate America (without being too embarrassed and frustrated by them at the same time) annnnd figure out what it means to be with a boy, what she is "supposed" to do. The first section of the story begins with Eugenia in LA, 1992, starting school and finding some sort of place in this new American world. The second section takes place over a summer on an island in Italy where she and her brother are sent after their first year in LA. The third, culminating section introduces Deva, a girl Eugenia meets and falls for and finally the Earthquake of 1994 that settles the dust and her own view of herself, finally.

There were quite a few moments/lines in this book that bothered me. Situations Eugenia was in, sentences that were written in such a way I can't seem to forget. Overall, I thought the story was unique and well written, that the time period was one of angst in general but more so if you were a teenage girl trying to fit in (I was in first grade in 1994, so a lot of the cultural references went a bit over me).  And honestly, a time I hadn't read in a book before. That grungy, dirty LA of the nineties (a world Eugenia was probably all together too nice for).

I rated this book 3.5 starts on Goodreads much for the reason I stated above but would highly recommend this story and author regardless of my personal reasons regarding a few scenes! I am still thinking of Eugenia and how her story ended, how strong she became through those two years in LA. I'm not sure I would have figured out half of what she did about herself when I was in high school, especially having so many negative experiences right off the bat (ones she decided were omens that they should never have left Italy).

I can't thank Doubleday enough for this advance copy! I enjoyed reading something slightly outside of my usual and am grateful for the chance to give Things That Happened Before the Earthquake an honest review! It will be available for purchase on August 15th!

Things That Happened Before The Earthquake by Chiara Barzini
304 pages
Published by Doubleday

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Bookshop at Water's End by Patti Callahan Henry

I received Patti Callahan Henry's The Bookshop at Water's End through a Goodreads giveaway and wasn't sure what to expect! I just knew that any book that takes place in and around a bookshop is bound to be worth reading, right?

Pleasantly surprised as this story unfolded, I quickly became immersed in the world of two friends who lost something their third summer vacationing together but remained friends throughout their lives. As both are at the risk of losing again, they meet again at the beach house in South Carolina hoping it will heal their hearts from the past and from their troubled present.

Bonny and Lainey, friends since those fateful summers on vacation with their families, struck me as such a realistic portrayal of what adult friendship can be. Despite time, distance and obligations they were there for each other when it was needed most.

I enjoyed the alternating chapters in each woman's voice, along with that of Bonny's daughter, as the summer in South Carolina unfolded. I also appreciated the flashbacks to the summers of their childhood which helped fill in what had transpired while they were children. And lets be honest, Mimi the bookshop owner was one of my favorite characters!!

I highly recommend this book if you like stories that center around friendship and connection, love and mystery. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this book and am excited to get to know Patti Callahan Henry's writing a bit more. She has published quite a few books!

Thanks to Berkley Publishing for the advance copy! The Bookshop at Water's End will be out on July 11th!

The Book Shop at Water's End by Patti Callahan Henry 
352 pages
Published by Berkley Publishing

'Round Midnight by Laura McBride

Everybody loves the glitz and bright lights of Vegas, especially vintage Vegas and Laura McBride's 'Round Midnight did not disappoint! I love when an author creates a setting that makes you really feel as if you're there with the characters, feeling the heat and dry desert sand under your feet but also visually aware of the lights, glamour and noise of a certain place. From the beginning, the setting and time period of 'Round Midnight had me hooked.

The other thing that was great about this book was how McBride intertwined four different women and their own unique stories into this setting and specifically The Midnight Room in Las Vegas. Spanning decades, this room and these women somehow found themselves connected to each other in ways that gave them the strength and courage to be what they weren't sure they could.

My favorite character was Honorata, who was sent to America as a bride purchased by a man from her uncle. Under such dismal and terrible circumstances she is able to take hold of her life, with the help of The Midnight Room and June and rise above her situation. June is another character that I felt deeply for and while her story was not as rewarding or uplifting, she brought about the necessary change in the other women's lives.

I think, overall, this story was incredibly well written and the four women were depicted in such a way that you wanted to keep reading and see them succeed. For me personally, I enjoyed the first half of the book (vintage Vegas!) and June's character as she navigates her newly married status and the heat (literal and figurative) of the desert climate.

I would recommend this book if you are looking for a well thought out character based story that moves slowly but with a rewarding finish for the characters involved. I think you'll be rooting for all of them by the end.

I gave this book 3.5 stars on Goodreads!

Thank you Touchstone books for the opportunity to review this book.

'Round Midnight by Laura McBride 
372 pages
Published by Touchstone Books

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

"Love does that. It makes you feel infinite and invincible, like the whole world is open to you, anything is achievable, and each day will be filled with wonder. Maybe it’s the act of opening yourself up, letting someone else in— or maybe it’s the act of caring so deeply about another person that it expands your heart. I’ve heard so many people say some version of I never knew how much I could love another human being until . . . And after the until is usually something like my niece was born or I gave birth to a child or I adopted a baby. I never knew how much I could love another human being until I met you, Gabe.
I’ll never forget that." 

If you're looking for a book to read that will make you long for a first love or that fluttery first love feeling and ache for the way life sometimes makes a mess of things....The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo is it. I went into this book not really having any idea of what it was about, other than that I knew I would probably cry (like so many others warned me about) and that it involved missed chances and true loves. What's more devastating than a missed chance? Especially when it involves the truest love of your heart.

I don't want to write this review with spoilers but I will say that the flow of the chapters, the back and forth between Lucy and Gabe, the fact that from the very first day they met they were marked by unspeakable circumstances and the heartache at the center of it all made this book truly unique. I've read plenty of Nicholas Sparks in my time and cried over the unfairness of love but its a different feeling altogether when an author can hit home something deep inside of you. When two characters can be written with such honesty and normality that it almost feels like you're reading a story that could've happened to you. Yes, I could see myself sitting in that bar and walking over to a an old friend from college. Yes, I could see myself getting caught up in the meaning behind two lines in an email. Yes, yes, yes, I could see telling myself over and over again that it means nothing....that a love missed isn't the end of the world.

Jill Santopolo has written a truly remarkable, original and still very believable love story that takes place in one of the best places a love story can: New York City. I highly recommend this book if you want to escape into a love story that may break your heart but in doing so will remind you what it means to love someone, or multiple someones, in very different and real ways.

xo, R.

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo
321 pages
Publish by Puntam Books

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons

Have you ever read a book and had to repeatedly remind yourself it wasn't a true story? That you weren't reading a memoir? That the beautifully written passages were works of fiction and not someone's own struggle? This is how I felt while reading What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons. I'm not sure if it is because I've been reading more memoirs than usual lately or if the writing is just so honest that it was hard to differentiate real from not but I constantly had to remind myself that this was fiction. It was that good.

Told in short vignettes, chapters that sometimes were no longer than a sentence, Clemmons created a sense of reading something incredibly personal. Almost as if I had stumbled upon the diary of Thandie, the main character. Her story of loss (her mother) as well as the pull between two cultures, her own skin color (not black, not white), her place in life and in love, as a mother and a wife and then not. Oh gosh. There was so much happening here, in this short book. The glimpse into Thandie's world, her struggles and the loss of her mother (I can't even imagine) gave me pause time and again to think. It brought to mind the quote from To Kill a Mockingbird, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."

Zinzi Clemmons did an excellent job making me feel like I was reading a true story, she made me question what I would do in similar circumstances and left me considering life from a different perspective. I have nothing in common with the main character in this book, with her struggles or her setbacks, her losses or achievements but actively putting myself in her shoes while I read through this short work of fiction made me appreciate Clemmon's writing all the more!

I would recommend this book highly to anyone who is interested in reading something a bit different, looking for a different perspective on loss and finding yourself in a world where there isn't a box for you to fit in. The vignettes of Thandie's life created all the more a sense of peeking into someone's personal diary. I rated this 4 stars on Goodreads and am excited to pass it along to other reader friends! Look for it's release on July 11th of this year!

What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons 
207 pages
Published by Viking Books

June New Releases!

June has been good to all of us book lovers! I am so excited for each and every one of these books. And there are quite a few more that I haven't had a chance to pick up yet that Im looking forward to reading as well!

PRH kindly sent me The Little French Bistro by Nina George. I haven't read The Little Paris Bookshop (yet! its on my shelf!) but am excited to read both back to back.

The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes is now available in paperback and oh my goodness I adore that cover! So chic! I loved the movie Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow forever ago and this sounds somewhat similar.

The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor is one thats been on my TBR list for ages! I've been anxiously awaiting its release and was thrilled when Riverhead Books kindly sent me an a copy! Historical fiction is my absolute favorite genre.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid is one of those books that I think EVERYONE has been anticipating! I recently discovered Taylor Jenkins Reid over the winter and fell in love with her way of storytelling. I have no doubt Evelyn Hugo will not disappoint! Was excited to win this ARC from Andrea Dunlop on her IG page!

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan was sent to me by Scribner and I so interested in the story line! Any book about books or bookshops makes me swoon and this sounds like the perfect thriller as well, combing the two.

There are quite a few other releases I'm looking forward to reading, such as Julia Glass's A House Among The Trees.

Happy Reading!
xo, R.

Monday, June 12, 2017

White Bodies by Jane Robins

Ohhhh goodness. This book! A psychological thriller that kept me absolutely clueless until the very end, I cannot say enough about White Bodies by Jane Robins. I have a really hard time reading a lot of the thrillers on the shelves right now, especially ones with a recommendation that begins with "If you loved Gone Girl...". Please. (eye roll) I've given a few a chance and have ultimately been disappointed with lackluster characters that have no redeeming qualities, a choppy story line or a predictable ending. Its frustrating and ultimately a genre I've just left alone.

I'll be honest, I went into White Bodies with much the same (bad) attitude. And then I kinda forgot about all those other books as I got to know twin sisters Callie and Tilda. And then Tilda's new boyfriend Felix. Such a tangled, twisty creepy relationship the three of them had right from the beginning....and try as I might I could not figure out what was happening! I had a few suspicions and thought out a few different scenarios for the ending but man, I was way off. Which is exactly how a good, well written thriller of any sort is supposed to be. Bravo Jane Robins! You did your job extremely well.

I'd recommend this book to anyone looking for a thriller that will genuinely keep you guessing, involves characters that are "normal" but also really kind of weird/twisted underneath and involves enough plot lines woven through that you're not sure exactly what is what and how it relates to the ultimate outcome. There were plenty of times I actually had to put the book down and walk away for a bit to process the last few chapters I had just read, to see if I could figure it out.

Heres a quick synopsis:
Felix and Tilda seem like the perfect couple: young and in love, a financier and a beautiful up-and-coming starlet. But behind their flawless fa├žade, not everything is as it seems.

Callie, Tilda’s unassuming twin, has watched her sister visibly shrink under Felix’s domineering love. She has looked on silently as Tilda stopped working, nearly stopped eating, and turned into a neat freak, with mugs wrapped in Saran Wrap and suspicious syringes hidden in the bathroom trash. She knows about Felix’s uncontrollable rages, and has seen the bruises on the white skin of her sister’s arms.

Worried about the psychological hold that Felix seems to have over Tilda, Callie joins an Internet support group for victims of abuse and their friends. However, things spiral out of control and she starts to doubt her own judgment when one of her new acquaintances is killed by an abusive man. And then suddenly Felix dies—or was he murdered?

Thank you Touchstone books for the advance copy! White Bodies will be released in September of 2017!

White Bodies by Jane Robins
296 pages
Published by Touchstone Books