August Book Wrap-Up

IMG_0843Hi, Book Friends! It’s the end of August and the end of summer. I read 10 books the month of August and don’t know if it’s because I had that much more free time or neglected some responsibilities, or both! And, all of these books with the exception of one were 4 or 5-star reviews – woohoo!

MRS. FLETCHER – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I adored Mrs. Fletcher. It’s a literary, coming-of-age story journeying thru personal growth, respect and acceptance.
P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Han’s narrative is adorable and upbeat making this an engaging and enjoyable story.
THE GODDESSES – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I was sucked in from the get go because I can relate to Nancy’s need to find her purpose in a new place as a stay at home mom, which isn’t always easy.
YOUNG JANE YOUNG – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
My connection to Rachel, Aviva and Ruby was palpable and I felt it in my heart and my gut. This is a story about three generations of Jewish women you will fall in love with.
MIDNIGHT AT THE BRIGHT IDEAS BOOKSTORE – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A bookstore mystery flanked by eccentric characters and a twisty plot – readers rejoice!
DEAD WOMAN WALKING – ⭐️⭐️⭐️
A story about a hot air balloon ride gone dangerously wrong when the passengers witness a cold blooded murder in the act on the ground below them.
LAB GIRL – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A scientific, biographical memoir depicting the author’s personal journey becoming a woman in science filled to the brim with passion, drive, emotion and rawness.
MY ABSOLUTE DARLING – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
My first reaction to Turtle is to hug her and tell her everything will be okay and to let her be a kid.
THE FUTURES – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Brilliantly weaves together a story about first careers, young love and the financial crisis of 2008.
THINGS THAT HAPPENED BEFORE THE EARTHQUAKE – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A story about an Italian immigrant family moving to LA to strike it rich in commercials in the early 1990’s. The themes are funny, disturbing, moving but most of all spot on. (Book Review coming soon)

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Book Review: The Futures

IMG_0840Title: The Futures
Author: Anna Pitoniak
Publisher: Lee Boudreaux
Publication Date: January 17, 2017
Source: Library
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Lee Boudreaux: Julia and Evan fall in love as undergraduates at Yale. For Evan, a scholarship student from a rural Canadian town, Yale is a whole new world, and Julia–blond, beautiful, and rich–fits perfectly into the future he’s envisioned for himself. After graduation, and on the eve of the great financial meltdown of 2008, they move together to New York City, where Evan lands a job at a hedge fund. But Julia, whose privileged upbringing grants her an easy but wholly unsatisfying job with a nonprofit, feels increasingly shut out of Evan’s secretive world.

With the market crashing and banks failing, Evan becomes involved in a high-stakes deal at work–a deal that, despite the assurances of his Machiavellian boss, begins to seem more than slightly suspicious. Meanwhile, Julia reconnects with someone from her past who offers a glimpse of a different kind of life. As the economy craters, and as Evan and Julia spin into their separate orbits, they each find that they are capable of much more–good and bad–than they’d ever imagined.

My Review: THE FUTURES brilliantly weaves together a story about first careers, young love and the financial crisis of 2008. I listened to the audiobook in two days which was highly addictive and so, so good! Each chapter alternates between Evan and Julia’s perspectives told with honesty and naivety as they come of age.

Evan and Julia are fresh out of Yale and heading to New York City where Evan will join a prestigious hedge fund and Julia settles for a non profit assistant position thanks to her family’s connections. Growing up in a modest family in small town British Columbia Evan earned his way to Yale on a hockey scholarship. Meanwhile, Julia had every advantage as part of Boston’s elite. I love the idea of Evan and Julia as a couple. They are young, in love, and exude youth and vibrancy, the kind of couple everyone wants to be like. But their storybook romance takes a turn when Evan gets caught in the crosshairs of the financial crisis at work jeopardizing both his career and relationship with Julia.

THE FUTURES is an amazing debut novel brimming with rich characters, an engaging plot, and many relatable themes. I highly recommend this book for a quick end of summer read.

 

Book Review: My Absolute Darling

IMG_0832Title: My Absolute Darling
Author: Gabriel Tallent
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publication Date: August 29, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Riverhead: Turtle Alveston is a survivor. At fourteen, she roams the woods along the northern California coast. The creeks, tide pools, and rocky islands are her haunts and her hiding grounds, and she is known to wander for miles. But while her physical world is expansive, her personal one is small and treacherous: Turtle has grown up isolated since the death of her mother, in the thrall of her tortured and charismatic father, Martin. Her social existence is confined to the middle school (where she fends off the interest of anyone, student or teacher, who might penetrate her shell) and to her life with her father.

Then Turtle meets Jacob, a high-school boy who tells jokes, lives in a big clean house, and looks at Turtle as if she is the sunrise. And for the first time, the larger world begins to come into focus: her life with Martin is neither safe nor sustainable. Motivated by her first experience with real friendship and a teenage crush, Turtle starts to imagine escape, using the very survival skills her father devoted himself to teaching her. What follows is a harrowing story of bravery and redemption. With Turtle’s escalating acts of physical and emotional courage, the reader watches, heart in throat, as this teenage girl struggles to become her own hero—and in the process, becomes ours as well.

*I won this book from a giveaway and want to give a huge shoutout to Riverhead Books and Goodreads. All opinions are my own.

My Review: All the stars and all the praise for MY ABSOLUTE DARLING! I dove into this book with little knowledge of what it’s about and a lot of hype. And the buildup delivered! Tallent spent eight years honing this book and it’s so brazenly obvious in the carefully crafted characters, the gently progressive plot, the superb narrative and the captivating writing style – “…and how you make a fire by staring balefully down into the reflective bottom of an aluminum can until your immense force of will was concentrated and magnified by the parabolic mirror into a white-hot spark of pure Turtle rage that could light anything on fire, even the hearts of unwary high schoolers.”

Set in a small town along the northern coast of California, Turtle Alveston is a broken fourteen year old girl who is battered, abused and seemingly doesn’t stand a chance under the rearing of her misogynistic, controlling, sociopathic father. She’s feral, a loner and failure at school but she’s a survivor – a sharpshooter, hunter and wanderer. My first reaction to Turtle is to hug her and tell her everything will be okay and to let her be a kid.

Turtle gets a taste of freedom and meets two teenaged boys, Jacob and Brett who grow up with the creature comforts she’s gone without. From getting lost in the woods to narrowly escaping being washed away at sea and surviving on an island these kids have a bond. This is the turning point in the story where Turtle questions Martin’s so-called professed love for her and his obsession to have her for himself. She must choose between her freedom or the complicated and familiar life with her father. The decision Turtle makes is gripping and a testament of her strength both physically and emotionally and will make you love her even more, if that’s possible, but something no teenager should ever have to suffer.

This is not an easy story to take in. You can expect complex and disturbing themes that are not easily understood. At over 400 pages MY ABSOLUTE DARLING commands your full attention, it is not a fast page-turner. If you can get thru the tough stuff you will be rewarded with a beautiful work of literary fiction. As a debut novel Tallent proves he has a gift. Turtle’s story will stay with me for a long time. I highly recommend this book!

Book Review: Lab Girl

IMG_0815Title: Lab Girl
Author: Hope Jahren
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Vintage: Geobiologist Hope Jahren has spent her life studying trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Lab Girl is her revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also a celebration of the lifelong curiosity, humility, and passion that drive every scientist. In these pages, Hope takes us back to her Minnesota childhood, where she spent hours in unfettered play in her father’s college laboratory. She tells us how she found a sanctuary in science, learning to perform lab work “with both the heart and the hands.” She introduces us to Bill, her brilliant, eccentric lab manager. And she extends the mantle of scientist to each one of her readers, inviting us to join her in observing and protecting our environment. Warm, luminous, compulsively readable, Lab Girl vividly demonstrates the mountains that we can move when love and work come together.

My Review: LAB GIRL is a scientific, biographical memoir depicting the author’s personal journey becoming a woman in science filled to the brim with passion, drive, emotion and rawness. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Jahren and adore when authors narrate their own books because the transference of their feelings and emotions is so real and true to the story. But, if you aren’t a fan of loads of science-y information and a fairly dry prose then this book may not be for you.

A fusion of science and poetry, LAB GIRL opens the door to a front row seat at the arduous and often inane efforts necessary to become a paid scientist and more so for women. Raised in her father’s science lab at a local community college, Jahren learned first hand the attention to detail and long hours required to make it in the profession and the lab quickly became Jahren’s safe haven.

Jahren’s focus is singular, her every breath revolves around having her own lab. She’s often awkward, comes across as both unresponsive and interested and she’s a loner. She has a long running platonic relationship with her equally brilliant and awkward lab manager, Bill Hagopian, who is part of her employment package deal. Later she marries another scientist, Clint Conrad, starts a family and faces the delicate balance between her career, family and her manic depressive episodes. I appreciate the beauty in Jahren’s love and dedication for science and the analogies between her subjects and career.

Book Review: Dead Woman Walking

DEAD WOMAN WALKING BY SHARON BOLTON BOOK REVIEWTitle: Dead Woman Walking
Author: Sharon Bolton
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Minotaur Books: Just before dawn in the hills near the Scottish border, a man murders a young woman. At the same time, a hot-air balloon crashes out of the sky. There’s just one survivor. She’s seen the killer’s face – but he’s also seen hers. And he won’t rest until he’s eliminated the only witness to his crime. Alone, scared, trusting no one, she’s running to where she feels safe – but it could be the most dangerous place of all…

My Review: I won DEAD WOMAN WALKING from a giveaway hosted by Jessica over at jessicamapreviews.com and Minotaur Books – thank you both! This review is entirely my own.

DEAD WOMAN WALKING is described as an achingly gripping read. It’s a story about a hot air balloon ride gone dangerously wrong when the passengers witness a cold blooded murder in the act on the ground below them. This sets into motion a chain of events that leaves Jessica Lane hunted and running for her life from Patrick Faa. In a span of three days she must get to the bottom of an organ trafficking case she is closing in on while evading Patrick. There are quite a few plot twists and I want to keep my review spoiler free so there’s not much more I can write. 

This is my first Sharon Bolton novel. I thought it was good but not great. I really wanted to love DEAD WOMAN WALKING but overall it fell flat for me. The book is 362 pages and divided into three parts. Unfortunately the story remained fairly uneventful until Part 3 and by then it was too late for me to get invested. The character’s were thinly developed and I never felt a connection to any of them. I need some type of connection whether it be on an emotional level or a relatable event to suck me in. On the other hand, the plot was unique and full of twists – right up to the end – I just wish it had more of that suspense / thriller grip factor. All in, I think it was an entertaining read and definitely worth checking out from the library. 

Book Review: Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore

MIDNIGHT AT THE BRIGHT IDEAS BOOKSTORE BY MATTHEW SULLIVAN BOOK REVIEWTitle: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
Author: Matthew Sullivan
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Simon & Schuster: When a bookshop patron commits suicide, his favorite store clerk must unravel the puzzle he left behind in this fiendishly clever debut novel from an award-winning short story writer.

Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the BookFrogs—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when Joey Molina, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore’s upper room, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions. Trinkets and books; the detritus of a lonely, uncared for man. But when Lydia flips through his books she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop, and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago and, as she soon discovers, never completely left.

My Review: When I saw the cover of MIDNIGHT AT THE BRIGHT IDEAS BOOKSTORE I knew I had to read this book.  I seldom select a book solely on the merits of its cover but this one suggests a certain quality of writing and Sullivan delivers a bright idea! A bookstore mystery flanked by eccentric characters and a twisty plot – readers rejoice!

I adore books that are a genre mish-mash because they elicit a wide range of feelings and emotions and BRIGHT IDEAS is the perfect blend of fiction sub genres – literary, psychological and suspense.  Sullivan’s characters are descriptive, moving and engaging.  Lydia is a bibliophile at heart and works at the Bright Ideas bookstore in Denver.  She forges relationships with the BookFrogs (lonely & disadvantaged) and is a special kind of person whose compassion and humanity shine thru. Her world is turned upside down when her beloved BookFrog, Joey commits suicide after hours at Bright Ideas.  He bequeaths his meager possessions to Lydia amongst which include several books containing cryptic messages.  These messages give Lydia insight not only to Joey’s suicide but take her back to her best childhood friends, Carol and Raj and the horrific Hammerman crime she narrowly escaped when she was ten years old.  Sullivan brilliantly crafts a multilayered plot weaving together a present day suicide with a gruesome murder from the past that ties an entire cast of characters together.

As a former Denver resident Sullivan’s homage to Denver is spot on!  I was taken on a journey down memory lane visiting The Tattered Cover Bookstore in LoDo, driving on Speer Blvd., and riding the 15 on Colfax to name a few.  These details made me love BRIGHT IDEAS that much more!

Book Review: Young Jane Young

YOUNG JANE YOUNG BY GABRIELLE ZEVIN BOOK REVIEWTitle: Young Jane Young
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Publisher: Algonquin Books & PRH Canada
Publication Date: August 22 & 29, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Algonquin: Aviva Grossman, an ambitious congressional intern in Florida, makes the mistake of having an affair with her boss–and blogging about it. When the affair comes to light, the beloved congressman doesn’t take the fall. But Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins: slut-shamed, she becomes a late-night talk show punch line, anathema to politics.

She sees no way out but to change her name and move to a remote town in Maine. This time, she tries to be smarter about her life and strives to raise her daughter, Ruby, to be strong and confident. But when, at the urging of others, Aviva decides to run for public office herself, that long-ago mistake trails her via the Internet and catches up–an inescapable scarlet A. In the digital age, the past is never, ever, truly past. And it’s only a matter of time until Ruby finds out who her mother was and is forced to reconcile that person with the one she knows.

*Thank you to Algonquin Books, PRH Canada and Netgalley for providing me this free digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.

My Review: YOUNG JANE YOUNG is guaranteed to resonate with anyone who loves contemporary women’s fiction. I was fully invested in this book and read it in two days. Yes, Aviva makes horrible mistakes in her youth and yes, she owns them and I think it strengthens who she is as a woman but the wide reaching impact is haunting and inescapable. I am blown away by these types of political sex scandals where male politicians walk away unscathed.

YOUNG JANE YOUNG elicits a range of emotions in response to events and situations that are real and relatable but presented in a light and upbeat framework. Zevin’s writing is masterful. My connection to Rachel, Aviva and Ruby was palpable and I felt it in my heart and my gut. This is a story about three generations of Jewish women you will fall in love with. Rachel is recently divorced and doesn’t want to be alone so she takes the advice of her best friend and tries online dating. You can imagine a divorcee in her 60’s who doesn’t mince words with her dates, I found her experience hilarious. Meanwhile, her daughter Aviva is dealing with the fallout from her sex scandal with a congressman. Pregnant, jobless and husbandless she leaves Miami and reinvents herself in Allison Springs, Maine. When she embarks on her own political career her adorable thirteen year old daughter Ruby, who is wise beyond her years, learns the truth about her mother’s past and handles it as a teenager would by running off to Miami to meet the father she thought was dead.

If you love a story that is funny, fresh and poignant then YOUNG JANE YOUNG is not to be missed and should be high on your reading list!