Category Archives: book review

Book Review: Gracie’s Song

I was gifted the ebook version of Gracie’s Song by Michelle Schlicher in exchange for my honest review, so here we go!

Gracie's Song

First, the Goodreads Synopsis:

“Everything can be undone.” That’s what someone tells Gracie Brannen, but she’s doubtful. After graduation, she walked away from everyone she knew with barely a word. Ten years later, she’s back. Even as familiar places and faces bring back old pain, Gracie finds hope in rebuilding old ties and forging new ones. Maybe everything can’t be undone, but perhaps everything can be overcome.

This was not only a cute story, but the novel was very well written. The story pulled me in immediately and I couldn’t stop reading it once I had started. Right off the bat I loved the main character, Gracie, and was intrigued by her story. The author doesn’t share why Gracie left home without telling anyone until much later on in the book, leaving me dying to know what had happened and how her childhood/high school boyfriend, Finn, would react when he found out.
The bond between this couple was so clear but it never felt overstated or overdone. This story felt like a story about forgiving ourselves and others and learning to move forward, rather than a romance, but the romance fit in just perfectly and naturally. No teenage or high school drama.; just life and learning how the choices you make not only impact your life but the lives of those around you. Additionally, the author demonstrates all relationships, including broken and abusive ones, so I never felt like the story was just too “perfect.” The story really makes the reader wonder about fate and if we’re really meant to be with one person.

The only thing I didn’t love about the novel was how the author used the flashbacks. Although they were necessary and helped to understand the characters’ stories, I started to get annoyed by them. About two-thirds through the book I was so wrapped up in what was happening in the current story that the flashbacks started to frustrate me. I wish more of then had occurred near the beginning of the novel and fewer near the end.

I really enjoyed reading Gracie’s Song and definitely recommend it to you all! I’m so thankful I said YES to reading and reviewing this book!

What did you read most recently?

If you could be the main character in any book, who would you be?

Are we friends on Goodreads?

March 2016 Book Reviews

It’s been a while since I’ve done any book reviews and I’ve still been reading quite a lot! I’ve been reading “easier” books recently (more beachy, chick lit type books) just to give my brain a break from the more stressful life changes I’ve been going through with losing my job and moving to Kansas City with my family while job searching in Colorado. Haha all in four weeks! So here are some of the books that I’ve been reading recently:

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

Yes Please

Goodreads Synopsis: 

In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book,Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book full of words to live by.

 

I was very pleasantly surprised by this book. I love Amy Poehler and heard good things about her book, but I’ve read biographical type books before I tend to skim them and get bored. What I didn’t realize was how impactful and “personal development-esque” this book ended up being. Amy said so many impactful things, along with some funny and interesting stories, that I left the book wishing I’d bought it in hard-copy rather than borrowing it from the library so I could highlight and take notes. If you’ve been on the fence about reading this book, DO IT! You won’t regret it!

 

Take Me Home by Nancy Herknes

Take Me Home (Whisper Horse, #1)

Goodreads Synopsis:

A big-city girl returns to her country roots for a fresh start, with the help of a wounded racehorse, an emotionally scarred but irresistible veterinarian, and a love to last a lifetime.

 

Oh my. Haha. Lesson learned: many Kindle Unlimited books are romance novels. Although this was a very good book, I must warn you before I continue that there were a few scenes that were a little more descriptive than I needed to hear. Just FYI.

Moving on, I really did love the story of this book. The author really develops the characters’ backgrounds and figures out why they are feeling or acting certain ways based on what they’ve experienced in the past. I think this connects with me a lot right now as I’m working through coaching women, as well as self-reflecting, and realizing ways that people tend to hold themselves back due to beliefs they’ve formed about themselves. I also love that the book wasn’t completely predictable. While I generally knew how it would end (especially once I figured out it was a romance), the story took a few twists that I wasn’t expecting and I really did enjoy the storyline.

 

The Girl You Lost by Kathryn Croft

28240855

Goodread Synopsis: 

Eighteen years ago your baby daughter was snatched. Today, she came back.

A sinister and darkly compelling psychological thriller from the No.1 bestselling author of The Girl With No Past.

Eighteen years ago, Simone Porter’s six-month-old daughter, Helena, was abducted. Simone and husband, Matt, have slowly rebuilt their shattered lives, but the pain at losing their child has never left them.

Then a young woman, Grace, appears out of the blue and tells Simone she has information about her stolen baby. But just who is Grace – and can Simone trust her?

When Grace herself disappears, Simone becomes embroiled in a desperate search for her daughter and the woman who has vital clues about her whereabouts.

Simone is inching closer to the truth but it’ll take her into dangerous and disturbing territory.

Simone lost her baby. Will she lose her life trying to find her?

By the time I finished this book it actually felt similar to Gone Girl. Not in the completely twisted ending ;), but in the whole concept of the main character’s life being completely upended and delving into a mystery that she certainly wasn’t looking for. There were many, many twists and turns to this story and I definitely wasn’t expecting a lot of them. If you’re looking for a suspensful thriller, this is definitely for you. I’m pretty sure I was on the edge of my allegorical seat the entire time!

 

Ghost Gifts by Laura Spinella

Ghost Gifts

Goodreads Synopsis:

All Aubrey Ellis wants is a normal life, one that doesn’t include desperate pleas from the dead. Her remarkable gift may help others rest in peace, but it also made for an unsettling childhood and destroyed her marriage. Finally content as the real estate writer for a local newspaper, Aubrey keeps her extraordinary ability hidden—until she is unexpectedly assigned the story of a decades-old murder.

Rocked by the discovery of a young woman’s skeletal remains, the New England town of Surrey wants answers. Hard-nosed investigative reporter Levi St John is determined to get them. Aubrey has no choice but to get involved, even at the terrifying risk of stirring spirits connected to a dead woman’s demise and piquing her new reporting partner’s suspicions.

As Aubrey and Levi delve further into the mystery, secrets are revealed and passion ignites. It seems that Aubrey’s ghost gifts are poised to deliver everything but a normal life.

 

I loved the concept of Aubrey’s gift and her struggle throughout her life of how to use it and incorporate it into her own life without letting it take over her or drive her crazy. I also love things having to do with ghosts, so of course I found this fascinating. I enjoyed how the author slowly revealed the mystery they were trying to solve, as well as the unexpected backstory of it’s subject.

Similarly to the story, the author also slowly gives us tidbits and flashbacks to both Aubrey and Levi’s history, which makes them much more dynamic characters and gets the reader more invested in their own individual stories as well as their relationship with one another. If you like mysteries and ghost stories, along with a little romance, this is definitely a fun read!

 

What have you read recently?

What’s your favorite genre to read?

Remember When I Wrote Book Reviews?

Last year I had my goal of reading 100 books, but I definitely didn’t review that many on my blog! If you want to see the ratings I gave books, be sure to check out my Goodreads. But, lucky you, I put together some reviews, the first two are books I read in 2015, and a series that I read earlier this year.

Out of Sorts by Aurélie Valognes

27842686

Goodreads Synopsis:

Ferdinand Brun hasn’t always been a grumpy old man. Many years ago, he was a grumpy young man. Now he’d much rather spend time with his canine companion, Daisy, than any of his nosy neighbors. But as his behavior becomes increasingly peculiar, his daughter grows concerned and begins to consider moving him into a retirement home.

In order to maintain his freedom, Ferdinand must submit to an apartment inspection by his longtime enemy, the iron-fisted concierge, Mrs. Suarez. Unfortunately, he’s never tidied up a day in his life. His neighbors, precocious ten-year-old Juliette and vivacious ninety-two-year-old Beatrice, come to the rescue. And once he lets these two into his life, things will never be the same. After an eighty-three-year reign of grouchiness, Ferdinand may finally learn that it’s never too late to start living.

 

I’m not going to lie, this book was a little weird at first. It took me a while to get into the narrator’s head and really understand his voice. I felt like the beginning of the story could have been a little clearer on our narrator and his current situation. The author started in the future and then went back to show how Ferdinand got there, but it was a little hard to follow. I also thought it was a little odd that this girl just shows up in an old man’s apartment to hang out with him. I get that it’s cute the author was trying to create a dynamic relationship between the two- but it was just hard to believe she would disappear from her apartment (or school!) to invite herself over without knowing anything about him.

Once I got into the story, however, I really enjoyed our main character, as well as the many other characters living in his building. One thing that I loved is how the author captured apartment living and how people tend to show their crazy side when it comes to dealing with building management and neighbors.

 

The Family by Marissa Kennerson

27778956Goodreads Synopsis:

Just like any average seventeen year old, Twig loves her family. She has a caring mother and a controlling father. Her brothers are sisters are committed to her family’s prosperity…

All one hundred and eighty three of them.

Twig lives in the Family, a collective society located in the rainforest of Costa Rica. The Family members coexist with the values of complete openness and honesty, and a shared fear of contagious infection in the outside world.

So when Adam, their Father, prophet, and savior, announces that Twig will be his new bride, she is overjoyed and honored. But when an injury forces her to leave the grounds, Twig finds that the world outside is not necessarily as toxic as she was made to believe. When she meets Leo, an American boy with a killer smile, she begins to question everything about her life within the Family, and the cult to which she belongs.

But when it comes to your Family, you don’t always get a choice.

 

Of course, I picked up this book because I find the mindset and nature of cults fascinating; it’s the part of me that wanted to switch to being a psychology major in college. I really appreciated the culture that the author created within their compound and how he demonstrated how people would end up joining a cult and then not be able to leave. I also loved the relationship that our main character, Twig, develops with Leo.

My only hesitations, however, were that the circumstances surrounding Twig’s initial connection to an outsider with her mother (don’t want to give anything away!) and then the conclusion of the story felt a little too far-fetched. Twig’s circumstances and story just ended a little too perfectly- but I can’t say more without spoiling the story!

 

The Immortal Circus by A.R. Kahler

The Immortal Circus

Goodreads synopsis:

Murdered contortionists aren’t exactly what Vivienne signed up for when she ran away to join the circus. But like most things under the big top, nothing is what it seems. With a past she can’t quite remember, Vivienne finds that running away forever might not be as appealing as it once sounded—especially not when she realizes the devilishly attractive ringleader, Mab, is the Faerie Queen of legend—and that she and the rest of the troupe are locked in an age-old rivalry between the otherworldly Courts.

Aided by her friends Kingston—a feisty stage magician whose magic is quickly stealing her heart—and his smart-ass assistant, Melody, Vivienne finds herself racing against the clock to discover the culprit behind a series of deaths that should be impossible. However, the answer she seeks might reveal more about her own bloody past—and future—than she bargained for.

The show’s just beginning. Step right up…

 

This series has been showing up in my “recommended reading” for the entire past year, and probably much longer. For some reason, I was just not interested in reading it, but when I saw that it was in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited I decided to just give it a go. Guess what? I ended up really liking the story!

I can’t say I looooved it, but I definitely enjoyed reading the series and I think that was mostly because of the author’s writing style. The conversations were effortless and I really believed the characters and the relationships. The author also did a great job of including twists in the plot that I really didn’t expect. I do have to say, however, that by the third novel the twists started to feel like too much, but they did all make sense in the end.

 

Do you use Goodreads? (let’s be friends!)

What are you reading right now?

My Winter Reading List

I realize that technically winter is halfway over, but I live in Chicago and in Chicago winter goes through April. Which is why I’ve decided to call this my Winter Reading list.

Winter Reading List 2016

These are all books that I hope to read in the upcoming months, some of which I own and have “meant” to read for a while, and others I’ve only recently heard about. If you want to see more of what I have read or want to read, you can visit me on Goodreads.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work,  embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.

 

The Longest Night

The Longest Night by Andria Williams

In this absorbing and suspenseful debut novel—reminiscent of Revolutionary Road and inspired by a little-known piece of history—a young couple must fight to save both their marriage and the town they live in.

In 1959, Nat Collier moves with her husband, Paul, and their two young daughters to Idaho Falls, a remote military town. An Army Specialist, Paul is stationed there to help oversee one of the country’s first nuclear reactors—an assignment that seems full of opportunity.

Then, on his rounds, Paul discovers that the reactor is compromised, placing his family and the entire community in danger. Worse, his superiors set out to cover up the problem rather than fix it. Paul can’t bring himself to tell Nat the truth, but his lies only widen a growing gulf between them.

Lonely and restless, Nat is having trouble adjusting to their new life. She struggles to fit into her role as a housewife and longs for a real friend. When she meets a rancher, Esrom, she finds herself drawn to him, comforted by his kindness and company. But as rumors spread, the secrets between Nat and Paul build and threaten to reach a breaking point.

Based on a true story of the only fatal nuclear accident to occur in America, The Longest Night is a deeply moving novel that explores the intricate makeup of a marriage, the shifting nature of trust, and the ways we try to protect the ones we love.

 

When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

For readers of Atul Gawande, Andrew Solomon, and Anne Lamott, a profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir by a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis who attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated.

When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.

 

20910157Yes Please by Amy Poehler

In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book full of words to live by.
The Nightingale

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

FRANCE, 1939- In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real–and deadly–consequences.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah takes her talented pen to the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France–a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.

A Man Called OveA Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman

In this bestselling and delightfully quirky debut novel from Sweden, a grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

A feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful and charming exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others.

What’s on your “To Read” list?
Anyone have reading goals for 2016? 

Recently Read: Book Reviews!

The 100 books in 1 year challenge is still going strong! I have FIVE books left to finish and a little less than 16 days to do it in. Luckily a good bit of that I’ll be home in KC for Christmas, so plenty of time to read! Today I wanted to share some book reviews for my more recently read books. These are the most recent four books that I finished:

 

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls

The Silver Star

Goodreads Synopsis:

It is 1970 in a small town in California. “Bean” Holladay is twelve and her sister, Liz, is fifteen when their artistic mother, Charlotte, takes off to find herself, leaving her girls enough money to last a month or two. When Bean returns from school one day and sees a police car outside the house, she and Liz decide to take the bus to Virginia, where their widowed Uncle Tinsley lives in the decaying mansion that’s been in Charlotte’s family for generations.

An impetuous optimist, Bean soon discovers who her father was, and hears stories about why their mother left Virginia in the first place. Money is tight, and the sisters start babysitting and doing office work for Jerry Maddox, foreman of the mill in town, who bullies his workers, his tenants, his children, and his wife. Liz is whip-smart–an inventor of word games, reader of Edgar Allan Poe, nonconformist, but when school starts in the fall, it’s Bean who easily adjusts, and Liz who becomes increasingly withdrawn. And then something happens to Liz in the car with Maddox.

Jeannette Walls has written a deeply moving novel about triumph over adversity and about people who find a way to love each other and the world, despite its flaws and injustices.

 

While I was reading this book I turned (well swiped) the page and suddenly it was over! I’m not kidding – it was just done, and I wanted to keep reading! The characters were all fascinating and the narrator, Bean, was adorable, funny, and so socially intelligent. I loved not only the characters, but also the setting – it’s rare that I read a book set during the late 60’s, during the Vietnam war, especially since the girls travel to Virginia and attend a school that is being integrated for the first time.

Although there were many serious topics that this book hit on, it did it from the point of view of Bean, which made you see things from a different and interesting point of view. Reading this book actually reminded me a lot of To Kill A Mockingbird, which was actually mentioned in this book. I highly recommend reading this novel, it flies by and you will be quickly drawn into seeing the world through Bean’s charming mind.

 

The Atonement Child by Francine Rivers

The Atonement Child

Goodreads Synopsis:

A beautiful repackaged edition of Francine Rivers’s classic novel that breaks through the many taboos surrounding abortion. In one terrifying moment, Dynah Carey’s perfect life is shattered by rape, her future irrevocably altered by an unwanted pregnancy, and her doting family torn apart. Her seemingly rock-solid faith is pushed to the limits as she faces the most momentous choice of her life—to embrace or to end the untimely life within her.

 

I’m still undecided on this one… good thing I’m writing a review, eh? Although I love Francine Rivers and I really did enjoy certain aspects of this book, I can’t say I loved it as a whole. My favorite parts of the book were the whole general storyline and all of the characters. It felt very real and she includes Christians in all different places on their walk with God – some who have a true and genuine connection with him and desire to do his will, and others who seem to be “Good Christians” more for show and pride than anything else.

What I didn’t love about the book were all the interjections about abortion. I felt like the story would have stood better alone without what I felt like were PSA’s on abortion. It was more like I was “getting through” those so I could keep reading and see what happened to Dynah’s character. It was a great book, but again, some parts about abortion in general were a little too much and took me out of the actual story.

 

The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel

The Astronaut Wives Club

Goodreads Synopsis:

As America’s Mercury Seven astronauts were launched on death-defying missions, television cameras focused on the brave smiles of their young wives. Overnight, these women were transformed from military spouses into American royalty. They had tea with Jackie Kennedy, appeared on the cover of Life magazine, and quickly grew into fashion icons.

Annie Glenn, with her picture-perfect marriage, was the envy of the other wives; JFK made it clear that platinum-blonde Rene Carpenter was his favorite; and licensed pilot Trudy Cooper arrived with a secret that needed to stay hidden from NASA. Together with the other wives they formed the Astronaut Wives Club, providing one another with support and friendship, coffee and cocktails.

As their celebrity rose-and as divorce and tragedy began to touch their lives-the wives continued to rally together, forming bonds that would withstand the test of time, and they have stayed friends for over half a century. The Astronaut Wives Club tells the story of the women who stood beside some of the biggest heroes in American history.

 

LOVED. Loved, loved, loved. I wanted to make my feelings very clear because you might start this book and think – why am I reading this? But keep going. When it began I wondered what I gotten myself into – is this just a twist on a history book? But no, keep reading. Although the author talks about all the different wives individually, you do start to remember who is who and you get more and more involved in their lives and stories as the book goes on. I

also loved this book because although the author used her own creativity when it came to what they women were thinking, the facts and everything that happened in the novel were true. I knew very little about early space programs and what the 50s were like for women, especially army wives, and I found the whole story fascinating. It felt like a completely different world. A definite must-read!

 

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

Eight Hundred Grapes

Goodreads Synopsis:

There are secrets you share, and secrets you hide…

Growing up on her family’s Sonoma vineyard, Georgia Ford learned some important secrets. The secret number of grapes it takes to make a bottle of wine: eight hundred. The secret ingredient in her mother’s lasagna: chocolate. The secret behind ending a fight: hold hands.

But just a week before her wedding, thirty-year-old Georgia discovers her beloved fiancé has been keeping a secret so explosive, it will change their lives forever.

Georgia does what she’s always done: she returns to the family vineyard, expecting the comfort of her long-married parents, and her brothers, and everything familiar. But it turns out her fiancé is not the only one who’s been keeping secrets…

 

Based on some of the reviews I read, I expected this to be a deeper novel, something closer to Under the Tuscan Sun than your typical Chick-lit. And while I did enjoy the book, it was a little lighter than I expected. Although everyone had significant problems and “secrets” they were hiding as the book began, they all seemed to wrap up together at the end like a classic 30 minute sitcom. It was just a little too perfect from what I expected. I did, however, enjoy the book and the story. It’s definitely more of a chick-lit style book, perfect for something relaxing to read on vacation.

 

What are you reading right now?

Do you ever ask for books for Christmas? I always do… 😀