The End of Loneliness by Benedict Wells: Book Review

The End of Loneliness  by Benedict Wells
Published: Jan 29 by Penguin Books
272 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy on Amazon

 

From Publisher: A kaleidoscopic family saga told through the fractured lives of the three Moreau siblings alongside a faltering, recovering love story, The End of Loneliness is a stunning meditation on the power of our memories, of what can be lost and what can never be let go.

My Thoughts: I love family sagas so I had high hopes for this character driven exploration of fate, life, and love but by the halfway point I fizzled out on the story. This is the story of Jules, Marty and Liz, 3 siblings who weather their first tragedy when their parents are killed when they’re all still under 16 (Not a spoiler, this is in book jacket description). They’re sent to a boarding school and I must say, the author did a fantastic job of portraying the depth of sadness that all 3 experienced because, as we learned from the beginning of the story, they were close with their parents and had a happy family life. Jules is the narrator and while I liked him, it did create a situation where I didn’t feel like I got to know or understand the story from Liz and Marty’s perspectives which I would’ve liked. Especially Liz as she really struggled after their parents were killed.

I appreciated the author’s ability to wax philosophical on fate, chance and how one’s life course can be completely altered by both. However, by the halfway mark I wanted more from the story. Not a whole lot was happening outside of us getting life updates on each as the years go by. We know Jules has been in a motorcycle accident and I did wonder what contributed to that situation but I found myself skimming for the second half of the book. I liked the ending but overall, I just wanted more…more drama, conflict, tension…something. But the writing is great and if you like slower, philosophical, character explorations this would be for you.

Thanks to Penguin Books for my copy via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review 

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2 Backlist Bingeworthy Books for Your 2019 TBR’s

The Idea of You  by Robinne Lee
Published: June 13, 2017 By St Martin’s Griffin
368 Pages
Affiliate LinkBuy on Amazon 

From Publisher: Solène Marchand, the thirty-nine-year-old owner of an art gallery in Los Angeles, is reluctant to take her daughter, Isabelle, to meet her favorite boy band. But since her divorce, she’s more eager than ever to be close to Isabelle. The last thing Solène expects is to make a connection with one of the members of the world-famous August Moon. But Hayes Campbell is clever, winning, confident, and posh, and the attraction is immediate. That he is all of twenty years old further complicates things

 

My Thoughts: Ok, so I read this blurb when the book first came out and I was seeing it everywhere and I thought it wasn’t for me because of the large age difference. Earlier this week, however, I saw this on someone’s Instagram top 2018 books of the year post and decided to take a closer look after reading that she had had the same reservations but then loved it. Well, this effectively busted me out of my DNF pattern and I read it in one day! This story was such a fun surprise. There’s some serious globetrotting travel going on which I loved as well as a high level of cultural detail into the art world as the main character Solene owns her own gallery. I found her to be very likable although she made some  questionable parenting decisions along the way. I also really liked Hayes who was levels above his age, maturity wise.

There are SO many themes explored in this book….love of course, ageism, sexism, the downside of fame, our society’s obsession with celebrities, women & aging, double standards, etc. I think this would make a great book club pick because there’s quite a lot to discuss but know that the romance is often quite steamy and explicit so…know your book club is what I’m saying. I’m dying to discuss this – especially that ending which I’m still thinking about days later –  so if you’ve read it and want to chat send me an email or DM me on Twitter or Instagram. Ultimately, I loved this and found it to be a smart, sophisticated love story. Bingeworthy indeed!

 

 

Forever is the Worst Long Time  by Camille Pagan
Published: Feb 7, 2017 by Lake Union
284 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy on Amazon 

From Publisher: When struggling novelist James Hernandez meets poet Louisa “Lou” Bell, he’s sure he’s just found the love of his life. There’s just one problem: she’s engaged to his oldest friend, Rob. So James toasts their union and swallows his desire.

My Thoughts: My 2019 has started with a bang with this couldn’t-put-it-down story. One of my favorite storylines is a love triangle so right off the bat I had high hopes for this book. The story is narrated by James from a time in the future which I thought was a perfect way to not only get to know (and like) him but to also get to know Lou and Rob through his eyes. James and Rob had been friends since they were kids and I loved how Pagan incorporated the sentimentality of that type of friendship along with growing up in a small town. If you’re James, what do you DO when you’ve fallen in love with your best friend’s fiancé?

What I especially loved about the way Pagan told the story is that everyone felt like real people making what often ended up being stupid decisions. They were flawed in just the right ways that what they did or didn’t do made sense even if I didn’t agree with them.  I have to say, throughout the story, I had no idea what was going to happen with these characters because twists happened early on.  Plus, it takes place over a time period of about 18 years so we really get involved and invested in the drama of their lives. And the drama was good! And perfectly paced. In the end, things happened I never anticipated and there may have been crying on my part. Seriously, I wasn’t prepared for how emotional this story ended up being and I loved every bit of this surprising one sit read! This is my first book by this author but it definitely won’t be my last.

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve read this or want to!

2 Must Read October Releases: One Day in December by Josie Silver & The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton

One Day in December by Josie Silver
Publication: October 16, 2018 by Broadway Books
416 Pages
Affiliate LinkBuy on Amazon

Short Summary: Laurie has a case of insta-love through a bus window, spends close to a year trying to find him, only to have him show up one day as her best friend’s new boyfriend

My Thoughts: I know a lot of people hear instant-love and automatically write a book off but I really hope you’ll give this one a chance. Whereas another recent love story, Ghosted (My review) didn’t work for me, this one completely did. I would describe the initial “love at first sight” as more of a “wow, I feel an attraction/connection with you” but they can’t even speak to each other because one is on a bus and the other is outside at the stop. Then, just as quickly, the bus is gone, resulting in a missed opportunity for both Laurie and Jack. To me, this was believable.

Time goes by and despite Laurie’s attempts, she’s never able to track down her mystery bus man. During this initial set up we get to know Laurie and her best friend Sarah and I immediately loved both of them and their friendship. You see, the author deftly explores female friendship along with the story’s inherent dilemma of what happens if the love of your life shows up as your very best friend’s new boyfriend. I know this may sound similar to Something Borrowed  by Emily Giffin but it’s really nothing like it. Silver has put her own spin on a familiar storyline, taking me down so many unexpected paths that I couldn’t stop reading! And I didn’t.  I read this in one sitting, laughing, crying and in the end slowing down because I didn’t want it to end. I have a feeling you might be seeing this on my top 10 books of 2018 list.  Yes, it was that good!

Thanks to Broadway Books via Netgalley for my copy 

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The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton
Publication: Oct 16, 2018 by Minotaur Books
432 Pages
Affiliate LinkThe Craftsman

From Publisher: Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Grassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago in a small village in Lancashire. Like something out of a nightmare, the victims were buried alive. But now, decades later, he’s dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves.

My Thoughts: Sharon Bolton is an auto-buy author for me, I don’t care what she writes, I’m buying and reading! That being said, I was a smidge hesitant about this one only because I knew it contained a hint of the supernatural and witches. Trust in Sharon Bolton, that’s all I can say because I loved this story.

One thing that really made this story for me was the fact that Bolton has created a multidimensional character with Florence Lovelady. We first meet her in 1999 when she’s returned for the funeral of Larry, the serial killer/creepy coffin maker whom she arrested and had convicted of the murders of 3 young kids in 1969. Can I just say, the scene involving one of these kids being buried alive was not only heartbreaking, but also one of the most uncomfortable, claustrophobic feeling scenes I’ve ever read. Luckily, Bolton doesn’t drag it out but it was enough to cause me to hold my breath.

The story continues by going back to 1969, allowing us to get to know Florence as she faces the many difficulties of being a female detective in the good old boys network of the police. The puzzle is intricate, the suspects many, and I was right there rooting for Florence as she sorted through the intricate web of layers to these crimes. I’ll be honest, the further I got in the story the more I had myself convinced I knew what had happened and I was a little disappointed that this was going to be the first Bolton story I had figured out. Yes, I was feeling smug. Then came some stuff…some happenings… and by the end I wasn’t so smug anymore. Sharon Bolton fooled me again and I’m SO happy she did. Seriously, if you enjoy mysteries, you have to read this book! Then go check out her backlist. You won’t regret it.

 

THROWBACK THURSDAY PICK OF THE WEEK

throwbackthursday

I began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of my old favorites as well as sharing books that I’m FINALLY getting around to reading that were published months or years ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on my TBR list while I continue to pile more titles on top of them:)! I like that these older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere.

If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board, you’re welcome to use my pic as well. If you’d like to link back to me that’d be great as I really try my best to include everyone who’s participating week by week at the bottom of my post so all my readers can enjoy all the awesome Throwback picks!

My Pick This week is….

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Published May 23, 2017 By Thomas Dunne Books

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

We live in a society obsessed with celebrity, but have you ever wondered who is on the inside gathering the best celebrity gossip and how do they get access? According to a Source: A Novel by Abby Stern dishes on this behind the scenes world in a way that only a Hollywood insider could.

Ella Warren works for celebrity news website, The Life, as a club reporter. She’s assigned to stake out Hollywood’s hottest clubs and spy on the celebrities inside. When Ella is pressured by her Devil Wears Prada-type boss to find an exclusive story to keep her job, she has to decide if being in Hollywood’s elite inner circle is worth jeopardizing her friendship with actress Holiday Hall, her budding romance with Holiday’s agent, and her family.

A juicy, big-hearted novel about a young woman who loses herself in a fast-paced, glamorous world where finding your authentic self isn’t easy.

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I grant you, this is a stretch for TBT since it’s only about 5 months past pub date but I’ve been in quite the reading and blogging slump this week and I’ve had this review waiting patiently for just the right time and looks like now’s the time! I hope to get back in the swing of things soon, I just think a little break has been needed.

I found so much to like about this debut audiobook that my blogging friend Susie from Novel Visits so graciously sent me via Audible. This is the absolute perfect book to listen to because the narrator, Therese Plummer, is fantastic and the story is downright addictive and fun.  I’ll be the first to admit that I love my People Magazine and Entertainment Weekly. They both pair very nicely with a cold glass of Pinot Grigio on a Friday evening. And I have ALWAYS wondered who those “sources” were whenever I’ve read something that says ” a source confirms or a source witnessed.” Until I read this, I kind of assumed they were made up. Well, now I know better thanks to Abby Stern.  There are , in fact, actual celebrity gossip “reporters” who’s jobs are to infiltrate the world of celebrities and report back to their bosses. They could give the FBI a run for their money! I know you’re probably thinking…but this is fiction…and yes, I listened to Abby’s interview at the end of the book and she was very clear that this is fiction but…this was her job and I for one wanted to believe while I was listening that she was inspired by true events.

What I really loved was trying to pair celebrities to their descriptions in the book. You see, no real names are used, rather, celebrities are referred to as “Former A list hot mess actress,” “Not so innocent over sexualized pop star,” “Sexy Indie Film actor, “Southern Girl Next Door movie star” and many more. This was just plain fun trying to figure out who they were. Add to that the behind the scenes juicy details of the inner workings of the Chateau Marmont and I couldn’t stop listening to this book. Alongside all this fun is the story of Ella Warren who is very good at getting the celebrity scoop. Her life is filled with parties, good friends, a great family and a yummy new love interest…what could possibly go wrong…right? Of course you know that SO MUCH can and does go wrong in Ella’s life, the question is…how will it all turn out for her and everyone her job has impacted? If you’re like me, you’ll love finding out. And if you can get ahold of the audio, Therese Plummer expertly brought all the characters to life…so much so that I was convinced there had to be more than 1 narrator…there’s not, she’s just that good! If you’re looking for a quick, entertaining read look no further than this fantastic debut.

More Throwback Thursday Picks Around the Blogosphere…

Jill at Jill’s Book Cafe

Deanna at DeesRadReads and Reviews

Amanda at Literary Weaponry

Cathy at Between the Lines

Susan at Susan Loves Books

Cathy at What Cathy Read Next

Lynne at Fictionophile

Sam at Clues and Reviews

Amy at NovelGossip

Annie at The Misstery

Mischenko at Read Rant Rock and Roll

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: THE HEART’S INVISIBLE FURIES By John Boyne

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Published Aug 22, 2017 by Hogarth Press

Cyril Avery is not a real Avery — or at least, that’s what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn’t a real Avery, then who is he?

Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamourous and dangerous Julian Woodbead. At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from and over his many years will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country, and much more.

In this, Boyne’s most transcendent work to date, we are shown the story of Ireland from the 1940s to today through the eyes of one ordinary man. The Heart’s Invisible Furies is a novel to make you laugh and cry while reminding us all of the redemptive power of the human spirit.

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ALL. THE. LOVE. I finished this book almost a week ago and I’m still at a loss for words on how best to review it. The blurb is actually one of the best I’ve read because it captures the idea of the story without giving away any of the magic of what you’ll truly encounter when you open the pages and become an accomplice in the journey of Cyril Avery’s life. I say accomplice when what I really mean is friend. Every once in awhile a book comes along and allows me to connect with a character on such a deep level, being privy to their thoughts, heartbreak and happiness, that when I turn the last page it’s like saying goodbye to a dear friend. THIS is that kind of book and Cyril is that kind of character.

When I started reading this gem all I knew was that it was a heartfelt saga…that’s it…and I’m so glad I went in not knowing anything and having read no reviews because everything was a surprise and believe me, there are twists and surprises throughout the seven decades that this book takes place. What I will tell you is that we first get to meet Cyril when he’s about age 7 and he’s living with his adoptive parents Maude and Charles. Now, believe me when I say these are some of the most eccentric characters I’ve come across in quite a long time! As a parent myself, I was shocked at some of the things they said to little Cyril…how many times can a kid hear “you’re not a real Avery” before it seeps into their whole being? Cyril, however, took everything in stride and while he grew up wondering who he was if he wasn’t a real Avery, he also knew that he was luckier than some as he had a warm house, clothes and an education. Here’s the weird thing about the family dynamics of Maude, Charles, and Cyril…oftentimes it was quite funny and I laughed out loud on several occasions at the wittiness of Cyril and the cluelessness of Maude.

The story is narrated by Cyril throughout and it’s broken up into seven year intervals spanning 70 years so we have a long time to get to know Cyril as well as his friends, loves, coworkers and acquaintances, and what I especially loved about this was that people we may have known in passing, often return again to Cyril’s life, whether attributed to fate or coincidence…who knows. Cyril’s journey also takes us not only to Ireland, but also Amsterdam and New York City which I for one love when I get to travel to various locations in my stories!

I’m going to finish by saying, how John Boyne handled the ending was just brilliant. I  loved everything about it as I cried my eyes out. In fact, I loved every single thing about this story and I can’t remember the last time I finished a book and felt the need to start over again right away. This book has EVERYTHING…drama, happiness, sadness, hope, and humor. It is epic and unforgettable. I’ve already ordered a hardcover copy for my favorites bookshelf where it will sit (until its first re-read) so I can pass by it daily and smile. Oh and if you’re a regular reader of my blog you may remember me saying that I thought The Force would be my favorite read of 2017 unless something else came along to blow me away…well, The Heart’s Invisible Furies has come along…consider me blown away!

Many thanks to Hogarth Press for my copy

 

THROWBACK THURSDAY PICK OF THE WEEK

throwbackthursday

I began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of my old favorites as well as sharing books that I’m FINALLY getting around to reading that were published over a year ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on my TBR list while I continue to pile more titles on top of them:)! I like that these older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere.

If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board, you’re welcome to use my pic as well. If you’d like to link back to me that’d be great as I really try my best to include everyone who’s participating week by week at the bottom of my post so all my readers can enjoy all the awesome Throwback picks!

My PICK this week is:

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Published June 2004 by St. Martin’s Press

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Something Borrowed tells the story of Rachel, a young attorney living and working in Manhattan.

Rachel has always been the consummate good girl—until her thirtieth birthday, when her best friend, Darcy, throws her a party. That night, after too many drinks, Rachel ends up in bed with Darcy’s fiancé. Although she wakes up determined to put the one-night fling behind her, Rachel is horrified to discover that she has genuine feelings for the one guy she should run from. As the September wedding date nears, Rachel knows she has to make a choice. In doing so, she discovers that the lines between right and wrong can be blurry, endings aren’t always neat, and sometimes you have to risk all to win true happiness.

Something Borrowed is a phenomenal debut novel that will have you laughing, crying, and calling your best friend.

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I’m shocked to realize I haven’t featured one of my all time favorite summer reading authors, Emily Giffin, and one of my very favorite books by her!! Seriously, I remember picking this up on a whim and thinking I’m going to HATE that Rachel girl, I mean how can the author have a main character betray her very best friend in this way and think we readers will like her and/or the storyline?? Then I started reading…and reading…and reading and I couldn’t put this book down. And not only did I not hate Rachel…I liked her…alot! In fact, I rooted for her to get what she wanted. Crazy considering my pre-judgements of the book before I picked it up. There’s just something so utterly readable about Emily Giffin’s writing and the moral predicaments she put these characters in that makes you really want to keep reading to find out how it all turns out. There’s even interesting secondary characters in this story!  This book holds the title of being one of the only books I’ve actually re-read twice AND I watch the movie every summer, so needless to say I remember the story pretty well and it’s just the perfect book to read with your favorite summer cocktail…and really, what more could a reader ask for?:) If you’re in the mood for a fun read with substance I highly recommend giving this one a try.

HAPPY READING! 

Everyone, I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that SO many people are jumping on TBT every week! It’s so fun to read everyone’s picks and share all of these old favorites….your TBR may very well explode each week (mine sure does) but as we readers always say…what’s one more book…or 10!! Enjoy! 

More Throwback Thursday Picks Around the Blogosphere…

Jill at Jill’s Book Cafe

Deanna at DeesRadReads and Reviews

Amanda at Literary Weaponry

Cathy at Between the Lines

Julie at Novel Thrills and Chills

Susan at Susan Loves Books

Cathy at What Cathy Read Next

Noriko at Book Fiend

Amy at NovelGossip

Holly at Dressed to Read

Sam at Clues and Reviews

Claire at I’m a Coffeeholic Bookworm

Lynne at Fictionophile

Nicki atThe Secret Library Site

THROWBACK THURSDAY PICK OF THE WEEK

throwbackthursday

I began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of my old favorites as well as sharing books that I’m FINALLY getting around to reading that were published over a year ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on my TBR list while I continue to pile more titles on top of them:)! I like that these older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere. If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board, you’re welcome to use my pic as well. If you’d just link back to me I’d so appreciate it.

My PICK this week is:

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Published May 1998 by Dell

My Rating: 5/5 stars

In the summer of 1977, Victoria Leonard’s world changed forever—-when Caitlin Somers chose her as a friend. Dazzling, reckless Caitlin welcomed Vix into the heart of her sprawling, eccentric family, opening doors to a world of unimaginable privilege, sweeping her away to vacations on Martha’s Vineyard, a magical, wind-blown island where two friends became summer sisters…

Now, years later, Vix is working in New York City. Caitlin is getting married on the Vineyard. And the early magic of their long, complicated friendship has faded. But Caitlin has begged Vix to come to her wedding, to be her maid of honor. And Vix knows that she will go—for the friend whose casual betrayals she remembers all too well. Because Vix wants to understand what happened during that last shattering summer. And, after all these years, she needs to know why her best friend—her summer sister—still has the power to break her heart…

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I went way back in my reading archives for this week’s pick which I think would be a great beach/pool read. I read this shortly after it was published MANY years ago and I remember being so surprised by how much I enjoyed it! I grew up reading Judy Blume and I wondered how she would fare writing an adult novel…turns out quite well. One reason I think it would be so fun to read this now is that the story takes place in the 70s and 80s, so before cell phones and social media when things happened at a slower pace, especially friendships. I also remember loving the setting of Martha’s Vineyard in this story. The biggest reason this book is on my short list of ones I want re-read is because I remember being VERY surprised by the ending but now, all these years later,  I can’t remember what happened! Now I’ve intrigued myself and hopefully you to:) If you’re looking to still add a drama filled beach read to your summer tbr I think this would be a great addition.

HAPPY READING!  

More Throwback Thursday Picks Around the Blogosphere 

Jill at Jill’s Book Cafe

Deanna at DeesRadReads and Reviews

Amanda at Literary Weaponry

Stephanie at Stephanie’s Novel Fiction

Cathy at Between the Lines

P Turners at The PTurnersbookblog

Julie at Novel Thrills and Chills

Susan at Susan Loves Books

Noriko at Book Fiend

REVIEW: THE BRIGHT HOUR By Nina Riggs

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Published June 6th by Simon & Schuster

An exquisite memoir about how to live—and love—every day with “death in the room,” from poet Nina Riggs, mother of two young sons and the direct descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson, in the tradition of When Breath Becomes Air.


“We are breathless, but we love the days. They are promises. They are the only way to walk from one night to the other.”

Nina Riggs was just thirty-seven years old when initially diagnosed with breast cancer—one small spot. Within a year, the mother of two sons, ages seven and nine, and married sixteen years to her best friend, received the devastating news that her cancer was terminal.

How does one live each day, “unattached to outcome”? How does one approach the moments, big and small, with both love and honesty?

Exploring motherhood, marriage, friendship, and memory, even as she wrestles with the legacy of her great-great-great grandfather, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nina Riggs’s breathtaking memoir continues the urgent conversation that Paul Kalanithi began in his gorgeous When Breath Becomes Air. She asks, what makes a meaningful life when one has limited time?

Brilliantly written, disarmingly funny, and deeply moving, The Bright Hour is about how to love all the days, even the bad ones, and it’s about the way literature, especially Emerson, and Nina’s other muse, Montaigne, can be a balm and a form of prayer. It’s a book about looking death squarely in the face and saying “this is what will be.”

Especially poignant in these uncertain times, The Bright Hour urges us to live well and not lose sight of what makes us human: love, art, music, words. 

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I love everything about this very long blurb; I think it tells you all you need to know in terms of what this book is about. And Nina’s writing absolutely delivered on sharing with us her very poignant, thought provoking, often laugh out loud funny answers to every single question listed in that blurb. Now that you’ve read the blurb and know what this phenomenal book is about, let me attempt to share with you why I loved it so much. I only hope I can do it justice.

When I pick up a memoir, which arguably isn’t often, it’s usually always something true crime. Last year I decided to branch out and read When Breath Becomes Air which was a truly remarkable story and challenged me to think about mortality for maybe the first time. So, The Bright Hour is being likened to When Breath Becomes Air which is possibly good and bad. Good because so many people LOVED WBBA (it made my top 10 reads of 2016 list) but bad because no one should for one second think…’Oh I’ve read one book about death and dying, I don’t want or need to read this one….’ This book is completely unique and I have to say struck me on a level that WBBA didn’t. I’m not sure if it’s because Nina was a mom of 2 boys who was dealing with life, marriage, dogs, female friendships, etc and I’m also at a similar point in my life, although my boys are older, but I just immediately connected with her voice and writing. From page one I felt like we were sitting having a glass of wine and she was telling me her story. Here’s just a sample of her down to earth yet gorgeous writing from page one…

   “Dying isn’t the end of the world’, my mother liked to joke after she was diagnosed as terminal…I never really understood what she meant, until the day I suddenly did….There are so many things that are worse than death: old grudges, a lack of self-awareness, severe constipation, no sense of humor, the grimace on your husband’s face as he empties your surgical drain into the measuring cup…”

Nina not only had her own diagnosis to come to terms with but she also had her mother’s. I really, really liked her mom! I laughed about some of their book club discussions and then cried when they questioned whether there’s book clubs in heaven…man, I really hope so! For me, this was the ultimate page turner that I never expected to be a page turner because once I started reading I didn’t stop until the last page was turned. And then I spent the next hour crying. And going back in my kindle and trying to find passages I may have forgot to highlight. So yes, tissues will be needed but I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. I was sad in the end, yes, but I was also changed and inspired. When I pick up a book I do so in the HOPE I will in some way be moved and Nina Riggs achieved this with The Bright Hour, a heartfelt book about family, love, the power of words, living and dying.  This is absolutely going on my 5 star reads bookshelf at home and I can guarantee you it will be one of my top 5 reads of 2017.

Huge thanks to Simon & Schuster for my copy via Netgalley. I’m so happy to provide an honest review 

BUY HERE

 

         

GETTING TO KNOW BOOKREPORTER.COM’S INFLUENTIAL BOOK REVIEWER JOE HARTLAUB

With the start of the new year and my blog still being pretty new I wanted to have a special feature every now and then that either highlights a book discussion topic or showcases someone interesting in the book world! When I think of an interesting person in the book world I need look no further than my good friend and fellow book reviewer Joe Hartlaub. I met Joe almost 3 years ago when I reviewed for Bookreporter.com for a short time. I had read his reviews every week and thoroughly enjoyed his reviewing style and recommendations. I wrote to him asking for advice on reviewing and he graciously took the time to help out a newbie and a friendship was born. I always like discussing all things books and authors with Joe as we have very similar interests in genres and he has THE BEST stories about happenings in the world of books, authors and publishing!! So, welcome to my blog Joe and thanks so much for taking the time to answer some reviewing questions and share some of your advice, recommendations, and stories with us!! Oh and you won’t want to miss Joe’s Top Reads of 2016, so let’s get started…

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Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m 65. I am married and have 3.75 adult children, as well as a granddaughter who is 10 going on 22. I currently live in the Columbus, Ohio area. I’ve been a practicing attorney for forty years and specialize in intellectual property law. To date I’ve had several short stories published, one of which — “Starlets and Spaceboys” — has been optioned for film. And speaking of film, I have a feature role in the film LA-308. Oh, and I review books for Bookreporter.com, too!

 How many years have you been with Bookreporter.com and what led you to book reviewing?

I have been with Bookreporter.com for almost 20 years. Way back in 1997 The Book Report (as Book Reporter was known at that time) was the “Books” section for AOL. Life was different then. You dialed up on a dedicated phone line to access the internet — cell phones were only for talking — and AOL was the portal. I sent an email to one of TBR’s reviewers and started a correspondence. She asked me at one point if I was interested in reviewing. I said yes and we went from there.
Have you been a reader all your life? What are your current favorite genres? How, if at all, has your reading preferences or genre favorites changed over the years?

I have been reading since I was three years old My mom read me Rudy Kazootie books before I could read myself. I really learned to read myself when I discovered comic strips in newspapers. I LOVED Dick Tracy, The Phantom, and Prince Valiant. I went from there to comic books — which I still look at, occasionally — and then to detective fiction — everything from The Hardy Boys to Shell Scott — and science fiction. Isaac Asimov wrote a children’s science fiction series — Lucky Starr — under the name “Paul French” and that got me going into that genre. I don’t read much science fiction anymore but still read primarily mystery and detective fiction.

 You’ve reviewed thousands of books, how do you keep your reviews fresh?

I try to keep in mind that every single author spent months trying to produce something new and original that would interest people enough to read it. I figure that the least I can do in acknowledgement of that is spend a few minutes finding a new way to discuss it.
 What’s the best part of being a book reviewer? The worst or most challenging?
The best part is having access to so many new books. The worst part is not having the time to read and review everything I would like to. It seems like so much gets past me.
 Do you have a reviewing format as far as things you always make sure you discuss in reviews?
What has kind of evolved over time is a three paragraph review. The first paragraph tells something about the author and the series. The second discusses the book itself. The third tries to sum up the literary elements that I particularly enjoyed. I don’t hold to this as a hard and fast rule but more often than not it’s what happens.
 How do you tackle a review for a book that you didn’t particularly enjoy?
Ahhh…excellent question. At Bookreporter.com we try to steer readers toward books they might look, as opposed to away from books. When I read a book that I don’t particularly like I try to focus on two things: 1) just because I didn’t like a book doesn’t mean that it’s a bad book. There are authors who are enormously popular who I don’t read for whatever reason. I accordingly try to evaluate the plot and characters and focus upon how well they hold the book together. 2) I made this statement on a panel several years ago — before ebooks and kindles and widespread self-publishing — and another reviewer took exception with it, but it’s true….every book that is traditionally published has some worth to it. It went through an agent, to an editor, and onward and upward. Those folks all saw something in it. That’s what I look for.
 What are some of your favorite book events you’ve attended and can you share any memorable author stories with us?

Bouchercon is always a good time. I haven’t been to a Thrillerfest for a while but they were fun as well and I imagine they still are. Killer Nashville is terrific. The folks who run it are first rate and Nashville is a wonderful city.

Memorable author stories? Oh yeah! I have a bunch of them. The most memorable one is driving to the first official Thrillerfest in Phoenix with the incomparable Marcus Wynne. We gave a few weapons instruction panels so we had a trunkload of shotguns, weapons, knives, and hand grenades, driving across he desert. My transmission went out in Phoenix so I was delayed a week, stuck in a seedy hotel room alone — Marcus had to get back to Illinois — with a roomful of weapons. And then things got worse. I met the wrong guy while my car was being fixed and got in the middle of some things and had to go a little over the top to get out of town. I’ll never forget that.

 What are your favorite titles that stand out for you over the last year or two?

THE EEL by David McKinnon immediately comes to mind, particularly because my reaction was a) how did he even conceive of this? and b) this is so beautifully written. Right now I’m reading DESPERATION ROAD by Michael Farris Smith which is so good that I’m deliberately pacing myself while I read it because I don’t want it to end. Your readers might especially like SECURITY by Gina Wohlsdorf, a very literate thriller which has contains multiple twists and has a very subtle dose of traditional romance thrown into the mix.

 What authors do you think everyone should be reading?
Oh, wow…James Lee Burke, James Sallis, Peter Farris, Cormac McCarthy, the late Larry Brown, Donald Ray Pollack, James O. Born, Robin Yocum, John Connolly, the late Elmore Leonard, David McKinnon…I could go on and on. I’ll think of several more by the time you post this and kick myself for not mentioning them.

 You also write for  Kill Zone Blog.com, how do you come up with your topics for those posts?

With great difficulty. It’s primarily an instructional writing site and I do not consider myself a good teacher. I usually fall back on an experience I’ve had and try to compare that to the writing life. I’ve been very fortunate to be part of that and hope to continue.
 What advice can you give reviewers/bloggers when it comes to writing reviews, creating interesting discussion posts, and just trying to keep it all fresh and creative?

Try to have fun with it. If you can’t get an idea or what you are writing seems boring to you go do something else, like listening to music or watching fifteen minutes of a series that is new to you before resuming your writing.
 Any projects in the works you’d like to share with us?

I’m working on a few things, but primarily a straight fiction, non-genre novel based on the experiences of a friend of mine from when he was in his mid-twenties. I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing but it’s coming along nicely.

Thanks so much Joe and best of luck to you on your writing project , I for one will be first in line to read it…I’m sure I’ll get a coveted advanced copy (hint hint:) 

Be sure to stop by Bookreporter.com for all of Joe’s reviews as well as many others. They also run fun contests and sneak peaks!!

Now to finish off this fantastic interview I give you Joe’s Top Reads of 2016.…hopefully you find many new books to add to your already towering TBR’s:) 

JOE’S TOP READS OF 2016

Security by Gina Wohlsdorf
The employees of a new resort hotel are systematically being murdered on the eve of the property’s opening in this wonderfully literate and claustrophobic thriller by a debut author who along the way redefines heroism and romance. A must-read.

A Brilliant Death by Robin Yocum
This gem of a book offers a mystery, a coming-of-age story, and a character study set in a place and time that is all but gone. Most of all, however, it is a wonderfully told story that deserves to be read over and over.

Willnot by James Sallis
One of fiction’s most reliable authors, well into his fifth decade of work, returns and yet once again rewrites the rules of constructing the mystery novel in this tale of a small town physician (and occasional veterinarian) who finds himself acting as a somewhat reluctant private investigator. It hopefully will be the first of a series.

The Jealous Kind by James Lee Burke
This 1950s period piece and coming-of-age tale contains a mystery at its heart. If The Hardy Boys series of the 1950s had been a series for adults and written by our finest contemporary author, it would have looked something like this.

Friday on My Mind  A Frieda Klein Mystery by Nicci French
This husband and wife writing team deserves far greater recognition than it has received for this superlative series involving Frieda Klein, a damaged and difficult psychotherapist, and this latest installment is the best of the lot so far.

Every Man a Menace by Patrick Hoffman
Read the first paragraph of this wonderfully dark, noir caper novel with five interlocking sections, and you will not stop reading until story’s end. Then pick up last year’s THE WHITE VAN.

IQ by Joe Ide
Just when you think you’ve read every permutation of protagonist there is, a debut author presents a quiet, realistic private investigator with genius level functioning and pragmatic compassion. I hope that this series runs until the end of time.

Bronx Requiem by John Clarkson
Veteran author John Clarkson surpasses the significant expectations that he created last year with AMONG THIEVES in this sophomore installment of a series concerning a group of hardened ex-cons who attempt to assist newly released offenders and often find themselves on the wrong end of both sides of the law. Gritty and memorable.

A Time of Torment A Charlie Parker Thriller by John Connolly
My bucket list includes re-reading all of the Charlie Parker books from alpha to present, and A TIME OF TORMENT is the latest reason why, as Parker, recovering from serious injuries, leaves his familiar Maine environs to confront an ancient evil in West Virginia.

The EEl by David MacKinnon
David MacKinnon is one of the best and smartest authors out there, and THE EEL, which defies classification and a short summary, is an instant old school and new school classic dealing with a failed author obsessed with the life, work and death of Blaise Cendrars, among many other things. It informs, challenges and entertains from first page to last.

THROWBACK THURSDAY: MY MOST MEMORABLE TEARJERKERS PART II

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I began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of my old favorites as well as sharing books that I want to read that were published over a year ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on my TBR list while I continue to pile more titles on top of them:)! I like that these older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere. If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board, you’re welcome to use my pic as well. If you’d just link back to me I’d so appreciate it

Last week I decided to change things up and have a Throwback topic that features some of the most memorable books that have made me cry over the years. It’s not often that I come across a book that moves me to tears (or sobs) so when I do those tend to stay with me. I think it takes something special on the part of an author to be able to evoke such strong emotions in a reader.

I’ve listed my picks this week in order, starting with light tears shed and increasing to a book that left me completely sobbing…ugly crying to the max in other words! Here we go..

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Published January 2016 by Random House

My Rating 5/5 Stars  sob rating 😢😢

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 making a living treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. Just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air, which features a Foreword by Dr. Abraham Verghese and an Epilogue by Kalanithi’s wife, Lucy, 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 young neurosurgeon at Stanford, guiding patients toward a deeper understanding of death and illness, and finally into a patient and a new father to a baby girl, 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.

If you haven’t yet read this profoundly moving memoir, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy soon! This might be the best written memoir I’ve ever read. Paul Kalanithi clearly had a future as an author which is what he planned on doing in the second half of his life after he was done being a surgeon. Sadly, we’ll never get a chance to read any more books by him but this one is a treasure.

 

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Published February 2008 by St.Martin’s Press

My Rating 5/5 Stars  Sob rating 😢😢😢

In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the “coolest girl in the world” moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all—beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed to be forever uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn. Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer’s end they’ve become TullyandKate. Inseparable. For thirty years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship—jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they’ve survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart . . . and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test.

Firefly Lane is for anyone who ever drank Boone’s Farm apple wine while listening to Abba or Fleetwood Mac. More than a coming-of-age novel, it’s the story of a generation of women who were both blessed and cursed by choices. It’s about promises and secrets and betrayals.

You guys…this book!! I read this almost 6 years ago and I still remember the story as well as the fact I had to put it down when my kids were around so they wouldn’t ask why mom was crying so much over a book:)  I just loved this story about a friendship that spanned decades.

 

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Published March 2006 By Knopf Books for Young Readers

My Rating: 5/5 Stars  Sob Rating: 😢😢😢😢

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul. 

Do I really need to say anything about this book…over 1,000,000 ratings and almost 90,000 reviews on Goodreads with a 4.36 ratings average…that’s just amazing! This book probably gets the award for the book I most resisted reading for YEARS! Friends recommended, reviews were excellent and still I didn’t want to read it. Finally , two years ago when my son was in 8th grade he was assigned this book to read for English and I decided to read it as well so we could discuss it together (I’ll do anything if my kids will read!). Needless to say, I loved it so much that I’d say it’s one of my top 5 reads ever.

 

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Published June 2016 by Simon & Schuster

My Rating: 5/5 Stars   Sob Rating:😢😢😢😢

This is a story about that special someone: the one you trust, the one you can’t live without.

For Ted Flask, that someone special is his aging companion Lily, who happens to be a dog.

 

 

This book is witty, original, sarcastic in places and laugh out funny in others. I’m a current dog owner and I totally got Ted’s devotion and attachment to Lily. That’s all I’ll say about the story but by the end of the book I was crying so much my dog came from another room and sat by me, which honestly made me cry more. I wish this book was getting more love I thought it was fantastic!

LAST BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST…The book that caused me to hide in the bathroom to finish it because I was literally sobbing so much…for over an hour…and then had a book hangover lasting about 6 weeks….is

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Published March 2015 By Doubleday

My Rating 5/5 Stars  Sob Rating 😢😢😢😢😢

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever. 

This book is also in my top 5 reads ever and one that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. It’s a haunting story about trauma, friendship and love and by far one of the saddest books I’ve ever read. It will seep into your soul and you will be changed after reading this book, I guarantee it. This book isn’t going to be for everyone as it has some of the most disturbing subject matter I’ve read and there were many times the darkness became too much and I had to put it down for a few hours and then come back to it. To say this is powerful writing and storytelling doesn’t seem to do it justice but that’s how I feel about this novel. All the sobs and ugly crying for this one!

Have you read any of these or like to? Have your own tearjerker recommendations? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Happy Reading!

 

If you’d like to check out another Throwback Thursday recommendation , check out The Book Whisperer Rebecca’s site here