Friday, June 30, 2017

June Reads


The month of June FLEW by and I can't even believe it. Part of why it went so fast is obviously because I was a very busy bee, reading every chance I had! And I read some GOOD books this month. So grateful to the publishers who sent me copies of a few of these and for authors who write such moving and wonderful stories. I'm still working on getting reviews up of each, but here's the rundown as far as Goodreads ratings go!

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo: 4 Stars
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid: 5 Stars
The History of Bees by Maja Lunde: 4 Stars
White Bodies by Jane Robins: 4 Stars
The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve: 4 Stars
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: 5 Stars
All Over the Place by Geraldine DeRuiter: 5 Stars
The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor: 4 Stars
What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons: 4 Stars
Things That Happened Before the Earthquake by Chiara Barzini: 3.5 Stars
GONE by Min Kym: 4 Stars
The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter: 4 Stars
The Grip of It by Jac Jemc: 4 Stars


And there you have it! So many good ones. The History of Bees, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Homegoing, All Over the Place...just a few of my favorites! Its hard to pick just one.

Check out my Goodreads profile for more reviews and summaries of each book.

Happy weekend!
xoR

The Grip of It by Jac Jemc

Are you in the mood for a spooky story? About a haunted house and a couple who starts to question who they are, to each other and themselves? THEN THIS IS YOUR BOOK.

I picked up this smallish sized book after FSG Originals sent me a copy thinking "Oh, this will be such a quick read! Look at those short chapters! And I can toss it in my small purse!" Bewared. Short chapters or not, each page was filled with creepy, unsettling psychological or physical paranormal stuff. The first night I read it before bed gave me nightmares and I quickly finished it the next day, with all of the lights on.

Told in alternating chapters between James and Julie, a married couple who move to the suburbs to escape the big city and all of its vices, they realize quickly that they may have gotten more than they bargained for with their new home.

What I loved the most about this book, besides the fact that the supernatural side of things was SO WELL DONE (not cheesy or unbelievable, but just subtle enough that I could almost see it happening) was the deterioration of James' and Julie's relationship. Psychologically they both start to unwind a bit and by the end are questioning everything (rightly so) and everything about each other. Motives, actions, EVERYTHING. Talk about paranoia! But when the other option is a haunted house, maybe that makes sense.

"I take more photos. I say "This is only one way it might be." thinking of all the other ways. I'm either telling a lie or there are so many truths."

A long time ago, during a summer break in high school, I sat by the window in my bedroom and read The Amityville Horror in its entirety. It was so creepy! I still remember thinking about a house having a presence, how it controlled the people inside of it and how I didn't understand why after the very first suspicion, they didn't high tail it out of there. There are hotels! Move away! You can see what is coming.

I felt this way a little bit while reading The Grip of It, but the excellent portrayal of both character's mental states really made me feel as if I was there too. And no, I wouldn't jump to it being a ghost drawing on the wall but more obviously my husband who was home all day. And obviously he's lying about it. And other things too. See what I mean?! Oh goodness. This book really got under my skin!!

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a creepy haunting, who loves the paranormal. I really enjoyed it when all was said and done (and am thankful we are not still living in our century old home).

The Grip of It by Jac Jemc
273 pages (ARC edition)
Published by FSG Originals

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Library sales, friends and a few good books


I love frequenting the bookstore, local shops and the used book stores in my area but nothing is more exciting than a library sale in my opinion! I have a good friend who works at a local library and always reminds me when their sale is coming up. She understands fully the importance of planning ahead for a library sale- and not missing it! I am lucky to have so many book loving friends in my life, ones who appreciate a good book or book discussion and love the thrill of walking into a room filled with boxes of books, not knowing what you may find! 

I think I did pretty well Monday night (we all did) and I thought I would share my finds! (See Above!)
One of the best things about a good library sale is that (usually) the books are pretty cheap and you can be a bit ambitious with titles you've maybe heard of before but weren't sure you'd like. Or in my case, you can grab a book you know you've wanted to read for fifty cents and then go home and find out its already on your shelf. What can you do?! And for fifty cents, its not the end of the world. 
Sometimes I find books by authors I love or have heard of before but didn't realize they had written other books! That's always fun! And while I usually check the Goodreads ratings before I buy anything, if I've loved the author in the past Ill just grab it (like Amy Tan!!). 
The other great thing is when you find that one elusive book you've been waiting to find for YEARS. And then you grab it kinda like a crazy person and put it in your bag and then look around to see if anyone was going to grab it before you. I've been searching for The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah ever since I read it two years ago and while I could have just splurged and bought it on Amazon, I felt like part of the fun was waiting to see if I could find one. Success! Happy dance. 
And last but not least, is finding pretty colorful books you've seen posted on Instagram that you've wondered about. All three of these I've seen shared by other readers but haven't made time to add to my TBR or wanted to buy myself. Finding them for a few dollars was really exciting and Im looking forward to giving them each a chance! They are each a collection of short stories too, which I've been enjoying reading from other authors. And I do love Helen Oyeyemi! I've read two of her other novels in the last year, so I am sure this one won't disappoint. 

And thats it! I've shared other library hauls in the past on my Instagram feed but I felt my trip Monday night was worth a few extra photos! 

xo, R. 

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 façade, 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


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Foxe and the Hound by R.S. Grey Blog Tour!




I jerk my head back and glare at him. “You’re holding me against my will. I think this is called assault.”
His gaze drops to my lips. “Assault?”
It’s like I’ve just given him a brilliant idea. He inches closer, and his body wash tortures me a little bit more.

Oh my gosh, does it get any steamier than this? I can't even handle it! You guys have got to check out R.S. Grey's new romantic comedy The Foxe & The Hound ASAP! I just started reading it Sunday night and cannot put it down, I actually am contemplating purchasing the print copy that just went on sale today at Amazon (I'm a slow e-reader). Madeleine and Adam's back and forth has so far been really entertaining to read! I love a good contemporary story that makes you laugh out loud and feel like you've got a new best friend. Cannot wait to share more of my thoughts later this week! 

S Y N O P S I S

 About THE FOXE & THE HOUND

When your life is a hot mess at twenty, it’s cute. At twenty-seven…well, not so much.
It’s just that my lofty dreams—making it as a real estate agent, paying rent on time, showering daily—have stayed just that: dreams. Oh, and love? I’ve decided love might be a little ambitious for me at the moment. Instead, I’ve settled for the two guys who will never leave me: Ben & Jerry.
That is, until Dr. Adam Foxe takes up residence as the town’s new vet.
With his strong jaw, easy confidence, and form-fitting scrubs, it’s not long before every housewife in Hamilton is dragging neglected tomcats in for weekly checkups.
Like everyone else, I’m intrigued. Even after I spoil my chance at a good first impression, he still offers me a proposition I can’t refuse: play his girlfriend at a family function and he’ll hire me as his real estate agent. Welcome to love in the 21st century.
It’s too bad I underestimated Adam’s irresistible charm and the undeniable attraction that burns between us. The day he pins me to the wall and silences me with a kiss, the line between reality and ruse begins to blur. Every teasing touch brings me to my knees. Every kiss promises more.
It looks like my hot mess of a life is about to get a little hotter.
Add THE FOXE & THE HOUND to your Goodreads list here!

Get your hands on THE FOXE & THE HOUND by R.S. Grey now!



About R.S. Grey

R.S. Grey is the USA Today bestselling author of thirteen novels, including THE FOXE & THE HOUND. She lives in Texas with her husband and two dogs, and can be found reading, binge-watching reality TV, or practicing yoga! Visit her at rsgrey.com

Saturday, June 3, 2017

GONE A Girl, A Violin, A Life Unstrung by Min Kym

I have been on a bit of a memoir reading kick lately and have gotten really lucky with quite a few of them. When I read the synopsis of Min Kym's memoir I was instantly intrigued. Her story about growing up as a child prodigy with the constraints and challenges of being Korean sounded like something far from the usual memoirs I see on the shelf (and don't pick up). I was also instantly curious about her relationship with the violin that is stolen and how her life falls apart after its disappearance. All in all, I was excited to start this book!

Most of the beginning of the memoir, while interesting at points, was hard for me to enjoy. I am not musically inclined in any way and while I have a true passion for reading and art I was having a hard time connecting with the descriptions of what it means to be fully consumed by something. To have music and the sound of the violin play through your soul and be a living breathing part of you. I also don't know much about classical music or music theory and found myself skimming over parts regarding names of musical pieces and the like. I haven't had a chance to play through the musical playlist that accompanies the book (written out in the front and then tagged throughout the memoir, when you should play a certain piece) and I really need to do that. I think more than anything, for someone struggling to connect with this story on a musical level that would certainly help!

As the book went on and Kym finds her "soulmate" in this very special Stradivarius violin, I found myself connecting a bit more with her. Her description of the loss of this instrument (which seems like such a bland word to describe what the violin really became for her as a musical artist) was honest and well written. I felt myself hurting alongside with her, after the trials of her youth and all of her accomplishments, to have been dealt such a blow.

In the end, I enjoyed Kym's honest writing (with little regard to explanations or descriptions of things unknown to non-musicians). While I struggled with some of the more factual parts of the story when it came to names and the like, I did enjoy the memoir as a whole and the peek inside of a life I wouldn't normally have gotten to see or learn about.

Thank you to Blogging for Books for the copy in exchange for an honest review.



Gone A Girl A Violin A Life Unstrung by Min Kym
227 Pages
Published by Crown Publishing