REVIEW: ‘ROUND MIDNIGHT By Laura McBride

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From Goodreads

To Be Published May 2, 2017 by Touchstone

From the author of We Are Called to Rise comes a novel about the interconnected lives of four women in Las Vegas, each of whom experiences a life-changing moment at a classic casino nightclub.

Spanning the six decades when Las Vegas grew from a dusty gambling town into the melting pot metropolis it is today, ‘Round Midnight is the story of four women—one who falls in love, one who gets lucky, one whose heart is broken, and one who chooses happiness—whose lives change at the Midnight Room.

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I’m calling this now…FAVORITE COVER OF THE YEAR!! It’s just gorgeous and I knew as soon as I saw it I had to read this. Well, that and the fact that it’s wrote by Laura McBride whose first book, We Are Called to Rise, made my top 10 reads of 2016 list last year. This novel is similar in structure to her first and totally works just as effectively as it as well.

When the novel begins, we meet June, who seemed to me very much a free spirit, but also somewhat lost in terms of what she wanted in life. The year is 1960 and June ends up in Las Vegas where she and her husband, Odell Dibb, run the El Capitan hotel where the showroom The Midnight Room hosts the most popular singer in Vegas…one Eddie Knox. Let’s just say June manages to stir up quite a bit of drama at the hotel and in her personal life and I loved reading about it. The author writes in such a way that I was completely drawn into June’s life. Her writing style flows and is so engaging that I felt that I was a fly on the wall…privy to everything going on in and out of the casino.

I have to say the settingLas Vegas in the 1960’s to present day… was a character unto itself and I absolutely loved reading every detail about the casinos and life on and around The Strip.  I remember visiting Vegas as a kid when there were still coins clinking non-stop out of the slot machines just like in the book. I’ve since visited Vegas every summer for the past 15 years and while the sounds in the casino have changed (paper has replaced coins), the vibe, lights and action of the casinos and The Strip sure haven’t. Laura McBride captured all of this brilliantly.

Following June’s section, the timeline jumps to 1992 and we meet Honorata, a Filipino girl who reluctantly (and somewhat bitterly) ends up in Vegas but whose luck may be changing. Then, there’s Coral, a Vegas native and music teacher who longs to find her own kind of happiness. Finally, in the last section, beginning in 2010-present we meet Engracia, an immigrant woman from Mexico with a tremendous broken heart. The beauty of how these very different women’s lives connect lies in the author’s tremendous storytelling ability. There wasn’t a time that I wasn’t completely engaged with the story and intrigued about how the ladies’ lives would intersect. That being said, I was definitely more invested in June’s story and to a lesser extent Coral’s. I really wished there wasn’t such a huge time gap between when we first read about June and when she makes another appearance. She was the character that I was most connected to and compelled to understand and there just wasn’t enough of her, in my opinion. I never really connected with Honorata and Engracia wasn’t in the story nearly as much as the others so I didn’t feel like I knew her as well. In the end, while I hoped for a little more ‘wow’ with the final scenes, I was very happy with how the author chose to end it. If you like vivid settings and charismatic characters, I encourage you to pick up this book.  This is truly top notch writing and storytelling and all I can do now is impatiently wait for Laura McBride’s next novel!

Many thanks to Touchstone Books via Netgalley and Laura McBride for my copy of Round Midnight, I’m happy to provide an honest review.

FRIDAY FINDS

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Friday Finds is a meme hosted by Jenn at Booksandabeat which gives us a chance to share recent books we’ve added to our never-ending TBR pile. !! This year I’m trying to cut down on the amount of books I add in the hopes I’ll get my TBR to under 100:) Wish me luck. Here are a few of my top additions….

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Published August 2016 by Orenda Books

September 1977. Mette Misvær, a three-year-old girl, disappears without trace from the sandpit outside her home. Her tiny, close middle-class community in the tranquil suburb of Nordas is devastated, but their enquiries and the police produce nothing. Curtains twitch, suspicions are raised, but Mette is never found. Almost 25 years later, as the expiration date for the statute of limitations draws near, Mette’s mother approaches PI Varg Veum, in a last, desperate attempt to find out what happened to her daughter. As Veum starts to dig, he uncovers an intricate web of secrets, lies and shocking events that have been methodically concealed. When another brutal incident takes place, a pattern begins to emerge. Chilling, shocking and full of extraordinary twists and turns, Where Roses Never Die reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost crime thriller writers

 

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Published January 2016 by Quercus 

The master of crime brings murder back to the Outer Hebrides.

A man is washed up on a deserted beach on the Hebridean Isle of Harris, barely alive and borderline hypothermic. He has no idea who he is or how he got there. The only clue to his identity is a map tracing a track called the Coffin Road. He does not know where it will lead him, but filled with dread, fear and uncertainty he knows he must follow it.A detective crosses rough Atlantic seas to a remote rock twenty miles west of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. With a sense of foreboding he steps ashore where three lighthouse keepers disappeared more than a century before – a mystery that remains unsolved. But now there is a new mystery – a man found bludgeoned to death on that same rock, and DS George Gunn must find out who did it and why.  A teenage girl lies in her Edinburgh bedroom, desperate to discover the truth about her father’s death. Two years after the discovery of the pioneering scientist’s suicide note, Karen Fleming still cannot accept that he would wilfully abandon her. And the more she discovers about the nature of his research, the more she suspects that others were behind his disappearance. Coffin Road follows three perilous journeys towards one shocking truth – and the realisation that ignorance can kill us.

 

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Published December 2016 by Orenda Books

The novel is constructed as a series of podcasts, in which an investigative journalist describes the circumstances around the death of a teenaged boy in an outward-bound centre, interviewing witnesses, suspects and people close to the incident. Their six accounts form the six stories of the title, creating a “chilling and compelling, page-turning thriller that also delves deep into notions of truth, perception and loyalty”

 

 

 

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Published February 2015 by St.Martin’s Press

Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her.

As the war progresses, the sisters’ relationship and strength are tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.

 

So there you have it. These finds are at the top of my TBR!  You might notice a pattern in that two of them are published by Orenda Books:) These are just a couple of the awesome upcoming reads I’ve got on my TBR over the next few months by Orenda books. As for The Nightingale, I’ve had my eye on it since it came out so I’m excited to see if it lives up to the thousands of 5 star ratings it’s received on Amazon and Goodreads

Have you read any of these? What are some of the top finds you’ve added to your TBR this week? 

 

MY TOP READS OF 2016

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This year I’ve read some truly outstanding books! For my top choices, I chose many of my 5 star reads with the exception of one 4 1/2 star read which I just had to include. Also, these are books I’ve read in 2016, and that were published this year or before. Since I just started blogging Oct 1 of this year, most of these reads are books I read before I started reviewing.

In no particular order…..

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I don’t think Sharon Bolton can write a bad book! I loved the premise of a possible wrongly convicted killer, I loved the characters and as always with her books, I loved that I couldn’t figure out the puzzle! I can’t ask for more from a book. You can read my review here

 

 

 

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I may have been late to the Joe Goldberg party but all I can say is better late than never that I finally got around to reading/listening to this brilliant book! This is my absolute favorite audiobook of all time thanks to the perfect narration of Santino Fontana who made sociopath Joe come alive. I can’t begin to praise the writing of Caroline Kepnes enough as I was completely addicted to this book! You can read my review here 

 

 

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I had this book sitting on my kindle for over a year and believe me, I could’ve kicked myself after I read it for having let this gem sit unread for that long. This was my first Beatriz William’s book and I loved everything about it. The historical timeframe, the shifting perspectives, the coastal setting and the memorable characters all combined to make this unputdownable! You can read my review here

 

 

 

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You’ll notice this book on many best of lists and for good reason. I don’t read a lot of nonfiction but I was so intrigued by this topic and author. His story is heartbreaking yet inspiring. His writing is outstanding. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

 

 

 

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The cover of this book does not do it justice! This is one of the most beautifully written stories I’ve read in years. There’s a little bit of everything in this book…mystery, drama, tragedy, resilience , hope…I could go on. This is a story that will haunt you. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out the mystery surrounding the disaster and how the many characters involved were connected. A must read. 

 

 

 

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This book might stand out a little on my list of top reads! However, I love a good romantic comedy/chick-lit every now and then but I haven’t rated many of them 5 stars. Except Bet Me. This was the perfect vacation beach read for me this summer. I loved the characters, they felt real and engaging. The dialogue in this book was fantastic…realistic, witty, sarcastic, laugh out loud funny…it had everything. Such a fun read!

 

 

 

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I loved the atmospheric setting, the dialogue, the web-like puzzle that was the mystery of this latest topnotch Tana French novel. You just know you’re in the hands of a master storyteller when you open one of her books. To top it off, her books can be read as standalones, so don’t feel you have to start at book one in the series! You can read my review here

 

 

 

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The title of this book had caused me to pass it by in the past, but I’m so glad I finally picked it up. This is a true book lover’s book. The story, the characters, the bookstore setting all drew me in and I read this charming, heartfelt novel in one sitting. I read this in March last year and I still think about the bittersweet ending. 

 

 

 

 

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Once I got past that cover (which is awful) this book became my obsession for 3 full days and nights last New Years. In my defense, it’s 720 pages! It’s the story of four male friends who’s friendship began in college and continued on several decades. I can honestly say I’ve never read a book so devastating and tragic, yet also filled with the healing power of love and friendship. This book gets the award for causing my longest book hangover, lasting 6 weeks! Get your box of tissues ready for this one.

 

 

 

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Another cover that doesn’t at all do this book justice! A novel about the impact of war, immigration, infidelity, family, and ultimately love and hope this book weaves seemingly unconnected storylines into a beautifully told story. You won’t be able to stop reading until you find out how they all connect and what becomes of one special little boy

 

 

 

 

So those are my top 5 star reads of the year but my top reads list wouldn’t be complete without adding one very worthy 4.5 Star read that had one of my very favorite characters I read all year and still think about…..

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This book was such a pleasant surprise as I had never heard of this author or title. The plot lived up to it’s blurb…everyone really did have secrets and the ending was a shocker! What put this on my top reads list was the outstanding character of Manny. If you’ve read this you know what I’m talking about and if not, you just have to read this for yourself to experience the memorable Manny:)

 

 

 

Each of these books were so fantastic because they all, in one way or another, made me FEEL something be it good, bad or sad! That’s ultimately what I look for when I pick up a book:) I would love to hear your thoughts if you’ve read any of these or would like to, so feel free to drop me a line. I want to wish everyone a very Happy New Year! I’m looking forward to everyone’s 2017 reads.

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REVIEW: SALT TO THE SEA By Ruta Sepetys & MERRY CHRISTMAS

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Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.

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This story is based on a maritime tragedy of epic proportions. While reading, I felt in awe of the fact that I had never heard of the Wilhelm Gustloff.  I’m not sure how that’s possible. What initially drew me to this book was the cover; that has to be one of the most  ‘indicative of the story’ covers I’ve come across! It’s haunting , yet intriguing at the same time because I wanted to find out what led to that picture.

I really don’t want to give anything away plot wise; you already know there’s a maritime tragedy involved so the beauty of this story is finding out what led to it and who are the characters involved that we are inevitably going to get attached to, worry about, and hope for their survival.

The story is told from four alternating viewpoints with very short chapters which led me to quickly keep turning the pages . There’s Joana, a fleeing Lithuanian who’s guilt over her past threatens to engulf her; Florian, a handsome wounded Prussian who’s carrying many secrets; Emilia, a young Polish girl who’s seen and experienced great tragedy but sadly feels the heaviness of shame and grief; and Alfred, a very odd German sailor who seems to live in an alternate reality most of the time. Somehow, their paths will collide and each will have to decide how much of their secrets they are willing to expose to the others. Along the way, we meet several other characters who will pull at your heartstrings…the wandering boy, the shoe poet and Eva were my favorite. I think the author’s writing shines with her ability to bring all these characters to life with their unique quirks, knowledge and personalities. They became real people who’s plights I felt and worried about; there was an underlying tension and dread I experienced while reading as I wondered if everyone I had grown to care about would live and if not who would die? That’s suspenseful reading don’t you think?

If you’ve already read and enjoyed The Book Thief and/or All the Light We Cannot See as I have, I think you’ll also enjoy this story. Not only did I find this to be a riveting, fast-paced page turner, it taught me about a little known tragedy in our history.

5/5 Stars

I want to thank everyone for taking the time to stop by and read my posts these last couple months, I so appreciate it and as this is my last post until after Christmas, I’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and if you don’t celebrate Christmas, Happy Holidays to you! I’ll be back next week with my first Blog Tour for Amy Poeppel’s Small Admissions as well as my top 10 (or so) reads of 2016!! 

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REVIEW:A HUNDRED SUMMERS by Beatriz Williams

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GOODREADS BLURB

Memorial Day, 1938: New York socialite Lily Dane has just returned with her family to the idyllic oceanfront community of Seaview, Rhode Island, expecting another placid summer season among the familiar traditions and friendships that sustained her after heartbreak.

That is, until the Greenwalds decide to take up residence in Seaview.

Nick and Budgie Greenwald are an unwelcome specter from Lily’s past: her former best friend and her former fiancé, now recently married—an event that set off a wildfire of gossip among the elite of Seaview, who have summered together for generations. Budgie’s arrival to restore her family’s old house puts her once more in the center of the community’s social scene, and she insinuates herself back into Lily’s friendship with an overpowering talent for seduction…and an alluring acquaintance from their college days, Yankees pitcher Graham Pendleton. But the ties that bind Lily to Nick are too strong and intricate to ignore, and the two are drawn back into long-buried dreams, despite their uneasy secrets and many emotional obligations.

My Thoughts

This was my first Beatriz Williams book as well as one of the only historical fiction books I’ve read in years. I came across it this summer going through my very long list of books I’d bought when they were on sale for Kindle but which had gotten lost in my never ending TBR pile. I bought it at the time (last year) because the premise sounded interesting and I love a good romantic triangle drama.

The book begins in 1931 when Lily and Budgie are in college and attending a football game at a nearby school where Lily sees Nick for the first time. It’s definitely infatuation at first sight on Lily’s part. As we become interested and invested in seeing the evolving love relationship between Lily and Nick, the author switches time frames and bumps us to early summer 1938 and Lily is back at her parent’s beach house in Seaview, Rhode Island, alone and seemingly trying to get out of a “funk” due to what happened with Nick and Budgie. Here, we’re introduced to Kiki (Lily’s six year old sister?) as well as her Aunt Julie who’s quite the outspoken, brash one of the family.   When Budgie shows up in Seaview to open up her parent’s beach house for the summer, things get VERY interesting! You see Budgie is married to Nick now, and well…you just have to read this to find out how THAT  happened and how it all plays out. Hint: dramatically!

I actually loved the structure of the story and how it’s told with the alternating time frames which culminated when the Hurricane of 1938 hits Seaview. No one and nothing will be the same. I was very invested and connected with all these characters who I thought the author made multidimensional. And I say this even though I didn’t LIKE all the characters. Beatriz William’s writing is so atmospheric that I could picture the club’s veranda at dusk, see Lily relaxing and sipping her gin while the waves crashed on the shore in the background and feel her shock and panic when Budgie and Nick show up out of the blue at that exact moment. So yes there’s excellent writing going on here.

If you can’t already tell, I loved this book! Not only will I be reading Beatriz William’s other books as fast as I can, I’ll be first in line for her future novels as well. For those of you who, like me, don’t typically read historical fiction you just might be pleasantly surprised if you give this one a try. If you like drama, suspense, and well-developed characters this may be the book for you.

5/5 STARS