June 2020 TBR

The days are finally getting longer and warmer!

We’re still living in a semi-lockdown here in New Jersey, so this means that I can spend these long summer hours reading some good stories!

The following are in my TBR list for June:

The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon
Purchased a copy from Book of the Month

Never Turn Back by Christopher Swann
Received digital ARC from NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books

Guild of Tokens by Jon Auerbach
Received complimentary digital copy from Storytellers on Tour

The CEO, the Puppy and Me by Jennifer Faye
Received complimentary copy for Prism Book Tours

Heir of Ashes by Jina S. Bazzar
Received complimentary digital copy from author

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim
Purchased a copy from OwlCrate

What books are on your TBR pile this month? Feel free to share!

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‘Beach Read’ by Emily Henry/A Review

Beach Read by Emily Henry
Publisher: Berkley
Length: 384 pages
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Purchased through Book of the Month
Release Date: May 19, 2020

My Thoughts

Getting your writing ‘mojo’ back after traumatic life experiences is such an challenging learning journey. This is the struggle January Andrews faces in ‘Beach Read’: accustomed to penning several successful romances, January faces the biggest challenge of her career upon losing her relationship and her father, while discovering unsettling truths about her family. She spends the summer in Michigan in a friendly competition of sorts with Gus Everett, a former classmate, rival author, and neighbor. Both Gus and January go to great lengths to show the secrets of their writing genres, while getting into some adventure (and sharing more than writerly advice) along the way!

‘Beach Read’ has many humorous moments, and I found myself laughing at the awkward moments January found herself in with Gus while getting accustomed to their new status as neighbors. Meeting other community members in the small Michigan community also came with its share of unexpectedness! In addition to getting acquainted with others, Gus and January’s constant banter was pretty engaging, especially when they shared tips about bettering their craft.

I also felt a lot of empathy for January, as she is faced with the quandary of making a deadline for writing the next bestselling novel while trying to sort out her complications. For the first time, January fails to see a ‘happily ever after’ in her life. She is in an uphill battle in finding peace within herself, as the perfect bonds in her regular life are shattered. Re-learning how to trust is not an easy thing to do, and Emily Henry does nice work in showing the difficult process to trust in others again.

I recommend ‘Beach Read’ to those searching for a light-hearted romance with the added twist in a character rediscovering their life’s purpose. It was very enjoyable!

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

What do you think of Beach Read? Would you want to add this book to your TBR? Feel free to share!

Synopsis

A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.

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WWW Wednesday: April 1

WWW Wednesday was originally hosted by A Daily Rhythm, and now maintained by Taking on a World of Words.

There are three prompts for WWW Wednesday:
–What are you currently reading?
–What did you finish recently reading?
–What do you think you’ll read next?

I purchased all of these books through Book of the Month! I love being part of this subscription service!

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
So far I’m enjoying the dialogue between Chloe and her family! The relationship between Chloe and the handyman gets off on rough ground…it’s going to be fun to find out how their link progresses!

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver
I really enjoyed this story about a woman learning how to start over after the loss of a loved one. This book was equal parts emotional and lighthearted!

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
I’m glad that this book chosen for the Literally Dead Book Club! A thriller set in New York City…I’m all in!


‘The Two Lives of Lydia Bird’ by Josie Silver/A Review

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Length: 369 pages
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Format: Hardcover (purchased through Book of the Month)
Release Date: March 3, 2020

Synopsis:
Lydia and Freddie. Freddie and Lydia. They’d been together for more than a decade, and Lydia thought their love was indestructible.

But she was wrong. On her twenty-eighth birthday, Freddie died in a car accident.

So now it’s just Lydia, and all she wants to do is hide indoors and sob until her eyes fall out. But Lydia knows that Freddie would want her to try to live fully, happily, even without him. So, enlisting the help of his best friend, Jonah, and her sister, Elle, she takes her first tentative steps into the world, open to life–and perhaps even love–again.

But then something inexplicable happens that gives her another chance at her old life with Freddie. A life where none of the tragic events of the past few months have happened.

Lydia is pulled again and again across the doorway of her past, living two lives, impossibly, at once. But there’s an emotional toll to returning to a world where Freddie, alive, still owns her heart. Because there’s someone in her new life, her real life, who wants her to stay.

My Thoughts:
When Josie Silver’s new book The Two Lives of Lydia Bird became available for purchase, I immediately picked it up! I loved reading her debut novel One Day in December, and I was ready to enjoy another tale revolving around friendship and romance while enduring life experiences!

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird begins with loss–Lydia Bird is struggling to live without her fiance Freddie Hunter, who was killed in a car accident. One evening, Lydia discovers that she can enter a world in which Freddie still exists. The story then takes us through Lydia’s life as she lives between these two worlds. The grieving process of losing a loved on can be extremely difficult and painful, yet Lydia’s grieving is placed on pause as she continues (in a sense) to have a life with Freddie. Both worlds are vastly different, and Lydia struggles to gain a sense of who she is as an individual throughout the experience.

Lydia is also struggling to repair her friendship with Jonah Jones. Jonah is both Lydia’s lifelong friend and Freddie’s closest companion. Since Jonah was with Freddie at the time of his death, he is also enduring his own grief as he continues life without him. Both Lydia and Freddie are also grieving the loss of the bond they shared throughout their lives. They make attempts to repair the bond they previously shared, yet the personal tie to Freddie makes things doubly complicated!

There is also a delightful cast of characters in this story, as Lydia’s family and co-workers ensure that she is not alone while navigating the grieving process. There are some unexpected turns in this tale, and Lydia faces some difficult lessons while learning to discover what she truly wants for herself!

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird is a wonderful story of a woman seeking to find her true self while navigating the stages of grief. It is a great depiction of Lydia’s desire of wanting her fiance to be remembered, while rediscovering the meaning of life. I highly recommend it!

Rating: 5/5 Stars



‘Lock Every Door’ by Riley Sager/A Review

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
Publisher: Dutton Books
Length: 371 pages
Genre: Thiller

Purchased through Book of the Month
Release Date: July 2, 2019

Synopsis:
No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story—until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s dark past and into the secrets kept within its walls. Her discovery that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to go missing at the Bartholomew pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.

My Thoughts:
‘Lock Every Door’ is a story that starts off at a slow pace, but it definitely picks up speed in the middle of the novel. It tells the story of Jules, a girl who receives a golden opportunity to reset her life after losing her job and relationship in one fell swoop: become an apartment sitter at the famous Bartholomew for a ridiculous amount of money. Although Jules feels that the ‘no visitors/no socializing with residents’ policy is odd, she really needs the money. It takes the disappearance of another apartment sitter, and Jules’s persistent questioning, to make her realize that some devious matters are at hand behind the history of The Bartholomew.

This story is presented in first-person perspective, gradually detailing Jules’s life situation to give the reader context as to how dire her need is to accept such an odd offer. Jules is without a family, and without a steady income. Although she has a close friend, Jules’s definition of personal success is having a steady footing financially. It’s not until much later that Jules realizes that there is more underneath the surface of her comfortable surroundings, money dangled in front of her mindset at an arm’s length.

The creepiness in this novel kept things interesting. As the story progressed, the turn I thought it was going to take went an entirely different route. As the true reason for the odd apartment stipulations unfold, it definitely left me thinking about the graphic details long after I finished the book! The tension builds nicely as it jumps between Jules in the present time, and the days leading up to the revelations she encountered.

As Jules is surrounded by the beauty and glamour of The Bartholomew and its famous residents, Jules constantly thinks ‘I don’t belong here’. The social class dynamic gets touched on during this book, as Jules feels insecure being surrounded by so many who have everything in life, while she herself has nothing. Despite these feelings, Jules travels around different areas of New York to find answers about Ingrid, not caring about her ‘place’ in the New York social dynamic. What matters was the overall well-being of her missing friend. As Jules sees it, it’s what her family would have wanted her to do. This aspect of Jules’s character makes her a strong willed person.

‘Lock Every Door’ was very much a spooky, thrilling story set in the backdrop of a city filled with magic. If you enjoy a thriller with steady tension and creepy elements, then this would be the book for you!

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

‘Small Country’ by Gael Faye/A Review

Small Country by Gael Faye
Translated by Sarah Ardizzone
Publisher: Hogarth Press
Length: 185 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: June 2018

I got my hands on Small Country as a Book of the Month selection for the month of May 2018. I was immediately intrigued by the story: a story that details the tragic events of the Rwandan genocide of the mid 90s through the eyes of a child. I immediately wanted to read it, yet one thing led to another (busy work schedule, other reading interests, etc.), and I didn’t picked it up until this week, when The Reading Rush readathon began. Once I did begin the novel, I finished it in a day.

     Small Country follows the life of Gabriel (Gaby), a 10 year old child living in an expatriate neighborhood in Burundi. A child of a French father and an Rwandan mother, Gaby lives in an area that faces intense political climates and ethnic hostilities between the Hutu and Tutsi citizens. These factors rest in the background at the beginning of the story, as Gaby lives with the daily struggles that encompass most children: Daily school life, forming close friendships, and connecting with close family. All of this changes as the community takes part in their first act of democracy in 1993, electing their first president. What follows next details the horrific events of assassination and genocide, leaving Gaby and his family struggling to live their daily life in an undeclared war zone.

     Gael Faye writes Small Country from his experiences growing up in an expatriate neighborhood in Burundi himself during the 90s. He deftly writes this debut novel in such an unflinching voice. He described Gaby as a young man struggling to keep his child-like innocence alive while the childhood of his friend evolves into a brotherhood of struggle. Gaby has the love of his sister and other friends in the community to maintain his spirit, yet it falls constantly at odds with the ever changing political climate, the mindset of his social circle shifting with the times.

     Small Country also speaks of the effects Western countries have on Burundi and Rwanda. Gabe’s parents deal with the differences between life in Burundi and the more relaxed atmosphere of France. Burundi and Rwanda are heavily influenced by French control, yet many of the native citizens are held under servitude. While Gaby and his friends are sheltered from the topic of slavery, his mother (who is of Rwandan decent) frequently reminds her children that their comfortable living is an exception to the norm.  

     Indeed, this book was difficult to read as it handles the topic of death through genocide. As the book progresses, it shifts to a darker view of life as entire neighborhoods and communities are wiped out solely based on their ethnic background. It follows the slow, negative progression of one person in their community as they search for loved ones within a war-torn neighborhood. The mental anguish described as they venture deeper into the unknown is absolutely chilling.

      I found Small Country to be a very fulfilling read. When I was done reading this story, I sat with it for a bit a took a deep breath. It’s truly heartbreaking that people can be singled out and murdered because they are a different ethnicity. The fact that such crimes are still committed this present day are equally saddening. We can only stay aware of these tragedies and be thankful that there are places where their voices can be heard.     

Rating: 4/5 Stars

May 2019 Book of the Month Unboxing

My Book of the Month selection for May arrived today! I’m not sponsored by Book of the Month, but I love receiving their boxes each month. They always have captivating titles, and their service covers many book genres.

This month I chose The Buried: An Archeology of the Egyptian Revolution, by Peter Hessler. It is a book that talks about the Egyptian Revolution through the eyes of a journalist who moved to Cairo with his family when things were beginning to change in a monumental way!

Brief Summary (from Goodreads):

Drawn by a fascination with Egypt’s rich history and culture, Peter Hessler moved with his wife and twin daughters to Cairo in 2011. He wanted to learn Arabic, explore Cairo’s neighborhoods, and visit the legendary archaeological digs of Upper Egypt. After his years of covering China for The New Yorker, friends warned him Egypt would be a much quieter place. But not long before he arrived, the Egyptian Arab Spring had begun, and now the country was in chaos.

In the midst of the revolution, Hessler often traveled to digs at Amarna and Abydos, where locals live beside the tombs of kings and courtiers, a landscape that they call simply al-Madfuna “the Buried.” He and his wife set out to master Arabic, striking up a friendship with their instructor, a cynical political sophisticate. They also befriended Peter’s translator, a gay man struggling to find happiness in Egypt’s homophobic culture. A different kind of friendship was formed with the neighborhood garbage collector, an illiterate but highly perceptive man named Sayyid, whose access to the trash of Cairo would be its own kind of archaeological excavation. Hessler also met a family of Chinese small-business owners in the lingerie trade; their view of the country proved a bracing counterpoint to the West’s conventional wisdom.

February 12, 2019: Book Of The Month unboxing

I recently received my Book Of The Month selection for February: A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum. It’s a story set in Pakistan and Brooklyn, NY, spanning three generations of women dealing with strife and traditional constructs.

Synopsis:

Palestine, 1990. Seventeen-year-old Isra prefers reading books to entertaining the suitors her father has chosen for her. Over the course of a week, the naïve and dreamy girl finds herself quickly betrothed and married, and is soon living in Brooklyn. There Isra struggles to adapt to the expectations of her oppressive mother-in-law Fareeda and strange new husband Adam, a pressure that intensifies as she begins to have children—four daughters instead of the sons Fareeda tells Isra she must bear.

Brooklyn, 2008. Eighteen-year-old Deya, Isra’s oldest daughter, must meet with potential husbands at her grandmother Fareeda’s insistence, though her only desire is to go to college. Deya can’t help but wonder if her options would have been different had her parents survived the car crash that killed them when Deya was only eight. But her grandmother is firm on the matter: the only way to secure a worthy future for Deya is through marriage to the right man.

But fate has a will of its own, and soon Deya will find herself on an unexpected path that leads her to shocking truths about her family—knowledge that will force her to question everything she thought she knew about her parents, the past, and her own future.

I love that each package comes wrapped. It really was a lifesaver a couple months back, when my package was left out in the rain for two days, and I had no clue!

December 28, 2018: Reading ‘One Day in December’

December28_2018


I began my new read last night, ‘One Day in December’ by Josie Silver. It’s a love story, following the lives of three people throughout a 10 year period. I’m amazed that I chose another story that centers on relationships! I did want to focus on Christmas stories around the holiday season, and the book has Christmas as a focal point. Granted, I began reading it after Christmas, but it has the word ‘December’ in the title, and it’s still December. So that counts!

December 27, 2018: My Review on ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ by Liane Moriarty

Novel received from Book of the Month

Length: 453pp.

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Synopsis:

Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever? In Liane Moriarty’s latest page-turner, nine perfect strangers are about to find out…

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?

It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.

My Thoughts:

I usually don’t bother reading stories that are fixated on finding love. As soon as books venture into characters down-trodden and lost due to love, or moving on after a failed breakup, I put the book down. Yet reading ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ by Liane Moriarty was a nice blend of characters from different backgrounds drawn together, gaining empowerment after difficult life situations.

‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ follow the lives of nine individuals taking part of a pricey, 10 day wellness retreat at Tranquillum House. The workshops are run by an overzealous guru, applying her un-orthodox approach of healing to the attendees in order to attain transformative results.

The novel is written in the third person, each chapter taking the perspective of a different character. This made some parts of the story fast-paced, as a certain scene could be split in several chapter following several perspectives. This allowed the reader to see what the other attendees in the retreat were pondering at these tense moments.

Moriatry also delves into the lives of each person, revealing the inner truths of how Tranquillum House entered their lives. The story didn’t have a central ‘dark character’, if you will, for each person carried a personal life struggle which led to their self-discovery. Moriarty also writes in the perspective of the health guru and her consultants. Their input in this tale further opens up a window into the past that gives clarity to the bigger picture.

I also appreciated how Moriarty writes about the power of social media’s influence in our society. Ben and Jessica, a married couple in the wellness retreat, were attending Tranquillum House for marriage counseling due to the wife’s obsession in her appearance, leading to a constant need for ‘Likes’ on her Instagram account. Frances Welty, a once best-selling author, was attending Tranquillum House after suffering her first huge rejection and poor feedback due to (according to her publisher) a lack of online traffic and resources. Both women suffered from the harsh eye of the internet, but for different reasons: Jessica was at the mercy of comparing herself to beauty’s entrapment, while Frances struggled to thrive under a publishing company run by a younger, social-media savvy generation.

‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ was a pretty good read, even with the periodic slow pace it contained. Reading about relationship struggles normally isn’t a preference for me, but this didn’t take away from the story.

Rating: 4/5