Popular Posts

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

My favorite genres to read tend to lean toward Women's, Literary and Historical Fiction - with the majority of my time spend nose deep in a historical fiction novel. Both World War I and II are standard reading fare for me - I'm not sure what it is about that time period, but I cannot get enough. So of course, The Alice Network by Kate Quinn was perfect for me.

I loved this book so much. It was a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick last year and I would highly recommend this to anyone who loved The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah or has enjoyed Beatriz Williams' work (one of my all time favorite authors).

The Alice Network is everything I want in a historical fiction novel. It's told in alternating voices from two very different women. Eve Gardiner in 1915 and Charlie St. Clair in 1947. Eve's chapters chronicle her time spent in the infamous "Alice Network" - based on an actual network of female spies in WWI. Her chapters were crackling, tense and full of anticipation for the next page. I couldn't tear myself away from them. Fast forward 30 years to socialite, Charlie St. Clair, who is unmarried and pregnant. Accompanied by her mother, she's en route to Switzerland with the plan of taking care of  "the little problem." Little does her mother know, but Charlie has other plans and embarks on a journey to find her cousin Rose who was living in France during WWII. She's convinced that Rose must be alive and is determined to find her. When a common name and place draws Eve and Charlie together - they take off to France (along with Eve's driver, a wily Scotsman with his own secrets) to find out what happened to Rose.

This book is a triumph, it's fast paced, emotional and wonderfully written. I loved Eve and Charlie's stories so much. Both women show courage despite heartbreak and I couldn't get enough of their moxie. For those of you who like a little romance thrown in - that's there too and I couldn't get enough of it. This book is plotted beautifully - I highly recommend.

The Book Gawker's buy it or borrow it recommendation: Buy It

Buy It

The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

GAH. Elin Hilderbrand is the Queen and can do no wrong.

If that's not a ringing endorsement, then I don't know what is. 

Elin Hilderbrand is always an author whose new books are ones I highly anticipate. She's probably one of the only authors whose expansive collection of work I own in its entirety. Yeah - all 21 novels. And of those, this one ranks right up at the top of my favorites.

Want proof? Here you go:

The Perfect Couple is exactly the kind of summer novel I want to read. I was completely absorbed with the characters and plot pretty much immediately. It jumps right in to the action - a murder mystery in which the maid of honor at a Nantucket wedding is found dead in the water the morning of the wedding. With the maid of honor dead, it's left to Nantucket's Chief Ed Kapenish to find out what actually happened.

Basically this is a summer beach version of Clue and I am so here for it. 

The Queen of the Summer Beach Read out did herself with this one. As usual, there's an incredible ensemble cast that keeps the reader engaged and questioning every one's motives. With interwoven storylines and betrayals - Hilderbrand does an outstanding job keeping everyone on their toes. There were so many times in this book that I thought I had it figured out but kept changing my mind. In the end, I had a pretty decent idea of what actually happened - but was never sure until the last page.

I loved catching up with some of my favorite characters from past novels - Roger Pelton (Beautiful Day) is one of my favorite Hilderbrand characters and I think every bride deserves to have someone like Roger at her side for the big day. The new characters were fabulous - Featherleigh cracked me up (especially while she was hitting on Nick (The Greek) during her questioning). The bride's mother Karen, who is battling breast cancer, was also one of my favorite characters. Her wisdom and courage were some of the best parts of the book, I LITERALLY CRIED.

With memorable characters from Hilderbrand's backlist (Nantucket Nights, Beautiful Day, The Castaways, and A Summer Affair) and of course the charming Nantucket backdrop that we expect and love about Elin's books, this is exactly the kind of book you want to bring with you to the pool or anywhere. If you loved her earlier work you'll enjoy this - and if you're new to her work I think you'll enjoy this. Definitely one of my favorites so far this year.

The Book Gawker's buy it or borrow it recommendation: Buy It

Buy It

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

Sophie Kinsella's name is synonymous with adorable chick lit. Most people are familiar with her extremely popular Shopaholic series, which are mindless, yet fun books that for me are the perfect escape. They're easily digestible and entertaining. So as expected, My Not So Perfect Life checks all the boxes of a fun Kinsella novel that offers a perfectly light reading experience.

If Instagram is any indication of one's success and posh experiences, Katie's living the life of a successful London millennial with the perfect marketing job, amazing friends and fine dining. But in reality, she's living in a closet, her flat mates are definitely not her best friends, she can't afford that hot chocolate she posted on her social media and her job is definitely far from dream worthy. In fact, her boss, Demeter, is an absolute nightmare. But moving from the country into the city is what Katie's always dreamed of and she's determined to make her life look perfect even if it's a far cry from it. But things don't always go as planned, and when Katie is let go from her job she trudges back to her home town to help start a "glamping" business at her family's farm.

This book is darling and quite entertaining. I did enjoy the commentary on social media - which I think is a big part of the narrative. Katie does everything she can to appear happy and successful when she really isn't, and it's interesting how we manipulate our lives to appear a certain way on social media. This is a super fun book that had some vibes reminiscent of The Devil Wears Prada, and I think that for what it is - it's well done.

Light and fluffy - predictable but fun. Look - if you're wanting to read something that's quick and entertaining, I would pick this book up. It doesn't offer anything to really sink your teeth into, but it's a fun read that will keep you entertained for an afternoon. Adept readers will see the major plot points coming, and Katie can get in her own way quite a bit. Even still, I enjoyed it.

The Book Gawker's buy it or borrow it recommendation: Borrow It

Buy It

The High Season by Judy Blundell

This is exactly the kind of book I want on my summer reading list. I love a nuanced domestic drama that keeps me flipping pages and that's exactly what I got with The High Season by Judy Blundell.

The novel is the quintessential beach read, from the setting right down to the ocean blue cover art. This story takes place in Orient - a cozy and less popular spot than the sparkling, prestigious Hamptons - where Ruthie lives with her daughter and runs the local museum. It's here that she owns a beautiful beach house, but every summer has to give it up to be able to afford it. When her tenant for the summer turns out to be a New York socialite with ties to Ruthie's past in the art world, the summer becomes less predictable, setting off a chain of events that will change North Fork.

I loved this book so much. To be honest, I find that I enjoy a domestic drama with characters who are flawed, their motivations questionable at best. These are the characters who come to life on the page for me, and this book was full of them. There were the obvious villains - I mean who could stand the petulant child that is Adeline's step-son (I'll be honest, I wanted a different outcome for him). But my favorite was Doe, who had questionable morals and who's actions sometimes blurred between right and wrong - but wasn't afraid to go after what she needed. These are the types of characters I find interesting, their stories and motivations compelling.

This isn't a huge plot book - instead it's a character driven narrative about betrayal, love and finding your way when things don't go the way you expected them. This book is exactly what you'll want to be taking with you on vacation or settling in with a crisp glass of wine for an evening escape.

An advanced Egalley of this book was provided by the publisher and netgalley for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Book Gawker's buy it or borrow it recommendation: Buy It

Buy It

Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren

Okay, there are a lot of things I liked about Love and Other Words and then there are some things I have questions about. This is a really sweet, romantic book with a lot of elements that I think readers in the romance/lighter fare women's fic genre will enjoy - but I do think that readers who are looking for a little more depth will see this as some sort of lightweight Nicholas Sparks novel - elements of The Best of Me come to mind.

I won't go too much into synopsis here - if you're reading this review you likely already know the premise of this book. You know that Macy and Elliot spent their adolescence together, they were best friends who became more than friends and then something happened that caused Macy to completely drop Elliot from her life. Eleven years after the thing they run into each other and it completely disrupts their lives.

Things I liked:

-Elliot obviously. What's not to like about the super sweet book boy who's always pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose or how he listens so intently to Macy and gives actual quality feedback. He's basically a unicorn and he's the sweetest.

-All the chapters that take place in the past. I really enjoyed Elliot and Macy's friendship, how comfortable they were with each other. I think that many aspects of their relationship will be relatable for people and this relationship is believable.

-Pacing and writing style. This book is about 400 pages and is a very quick read. I read the majority of it in a day. And that wasn't me sitting around all day long doing nothing. The writing is good, very accessible and didn't feel the need to roll my eyes.

The Things that don't work for me:

-Macy in the present. Okay, this might be an unpopular opinion - but come on girl, you can't go from zero to sixty in the matter of a week. Part of my issue with this is that we know that something really bad happened in the past, but we don't find out what it is until almost the last chapter of the book. So I get that it's been eleven years and she was heart broken all that time and couldn't get over the thing, but I feel like we should have had more internal conflict here or something because even though we get the back story in the end it felt really clichéd.

-Convenience. So let me explain. I felt that the supporting characters were a little flat and conveniently moved the story in one direction. Especially Sean. There's supposed to be conflict throughout this book, but everything happens so conveniently for the characters. I wanted there to be a little more conflict and emotional toil.

-THE THING Okay, it's not necessarily the thing itself (that was bad though) - it's that we don't know what exactly happened until the end of the book! And then I'm supposed to believe that after the air is cleared everything is just okay? Just like that? IDK. I have a hard time believing that after eleven years of holding onto the hurt and heartbreak she would just let it go so easily. But that's just me. Also this is the MAJOR CONFLICT of the book and it seemed resolved very easily with little processing on either party's behalf. In my opinion this would have been stronger if we would have been able to watch the characters work through this.

So, overall this isn't a perfect book in any way, but I did enjoy reading it. I think that there is a certain group of readers who will really love this - it'll be right in their wheelhouse and that is amazing. I enjoyed the book and would definitely pick up another Christina Lauren novel - but I can't overlook the areas that suffered in this one. If you're looking for something with a little more depth and emotional pull to it, I would probably pass on this. But if you're looking for something that is sweet and quick - check this out.

Bookgawker's Buy it or Borrow it Suggestion: Borrow It

Buy It

New Release Tuesday: The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

Beatriz Williams is one of my favorite authors. She's my favorite author writing historical fiction today, and what I think I love most about her books is how they remind me of classic films. Her ability to write witty, fabulous dialogue (banter) just makes me smile every time I pick up one of her books. She writes incredible characters, perfectly interwoven storylines - plus her books are like the marvel universe of historical fiction books - characters from old books are always popping up here and there. It's so much fun. If I could choose an author whose work I wish I could have written as my own - Beatriz Williams is that author.

If you haven't ever read one of her books I highly recommend her very popular Schuyler sisters trilogy, start with The Secret Life of Violet Grant, then Tiny Little Thing (my favorite of the three) and finally Along the Infinite Sea. Or A Hundred Summers. They're all amazing.

So you can imagine my absolute delight when I received a copy of her latest, The Summer Wives, from William Morrow publishing - I literally screamed in surprise and happiness when I opened the package. I know - I'm not dramatic at all. This book is the book that I notated, dog eared and flagged all through my reading of it. I took this book with me everywhere and I could not put it down. This book is my summer book of 2018.

Please believe me when I say, this is probably one of my absolute favorite of Beatriz Williams' books to date. This storyline is everything. In 1951 Miranda Schuyler arrives on Winthrop Island with her mother - who is soon to be wed to Hugh Fisher, a notoriously wealthy man whose summer home on the Island is as exclusive as it is expansive. The union between her mother and Mr. Fisher introduces Miranda to the dazzling Island elite and their impressive world of ivy league schools, cocktail parties and families.

But beyond the stayed traditions of Winthrop's summer residents there is another population of people who inhabit the island year round - a group of Portuguese residents who make their living lobstering in the harbor and operating businesses that cater to the wealthy summer patrons. Among them is Joseph Vargas, a young lobsterman who is friends with Miranda's new step-sister Isobel. Miranda finds herself drawn to Joseph's easy manner and charisma - but when a tragic event occurs one summer evening, Miranda finds herself banished from Winthrop Island and Joseph is arrested for murder.

But in the summer of 1969, Miranda returns to the island where the affluent Fisher family home is now a crumbling artists retreat, her mother and step-sister barely reminiscent of the glittering people they once were. Hiding from the world and her very public life as an actress, Miranda seeks refuge and love with those who once were her family and friends.

Perfectly paced and plotted, this book is one of my favorites this year. Williams' draws her reader in with her trademark wit and observation of a secretive elite society. It's a novel of love, betrayal and loss that is truly transporting.

An advanced review copy was provided by the publisher for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

The Book Gawker's buy it or borrow it recommendation: Buy It

Buy It

The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll

This book.

To say that this was a wild ride would be an understatement. The pacing and plotting of this book is batshit crazy. Pardon my French.

I'll be honest, I didn't care much for Jessica Knoll's debut novel, Luckiest Girl Alive . I felt her characters in that book were vapid, shallow and that overall the book lacked depth. In fact, I couldn't even finish it.

But this book - I absolutely devoured.

Knoll's sophomore effort is an addictive, twisty, thriller that sinks its claws into you and never lets up until the last page. If you enjoyed her writing style in Luckiest Girl Alive - you'll be happy that The Favorite Sister is just as snarky and bitchy, and full of pop culture references that hit the proverbial nail on the head. It's campy, overwrought, completely over the top and absolutely delicious.

I think if you can see this for what it is - it's brilliant and wildly entertaining. Knoll uses a reality TV show as the backdrop for her latest thriller, a murder mystery in which the most popular cast member ends up dead at the end of the season and the question everyone is asking is "What Happened?"

It's a smart move given the public fascination with celebrities and their lives. She gives us an all star cast of women who are supposed to represent the title of the show Goal Diggers. They're all unabashedly successful, young, wealthy and unapologetically ambitious. But behind the scenes we find that the show is scripted, the women are pitted against one another and everyone has a secret to hide. It provides a perfect landscape for Knoll's scathing social commentary on hot topics such as race, violence against women, female comradery, feminism and social image. A big one being women supporting women - but only as long as it serves everyone's agenda. It's exactly the backstabbing content the consumer wants and producers are only too happy to provide.

The reveals come at you fast, but this isn't Knoll's first time around the block and she knows her audience. She deftly gives enough information to keep you turning the pages - I never lost interest and only at the end did I have an inkling of what actually happened. This didn't detract from the book for me though. If past paced popcorn thrillers are your kind of thing - pour a glass of wine and pick this book up because it'll keep you entertained.

This book was read during the Booksparks and Popsugar 2018 Summer Reading Challenge, a free finished copy of the book was provided for review. All thoughts are my own.

Bookgawker's Buy it or Borrow it suggestion: Buy It

Buy It

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

Okay gushing review here.
ALL THE STARS for How to Walk Away by Katherine Center. 
Just please, please trust me and read this book. 

It's not very often that I find something so compelling that I can't put it down. I'm a fast reader, but this book took less than a day to read and I enjoyed it so much. I think that there will be a lot of people comparing this to Me Before You - and I can see some similarities, but this book is just so much more hopeful than MBY is, it's about recovering and getting up out of the ashes when life literally shatters your plans. It's about finding that there are all types of happy endings and how to move forward through hardship. It's about self love and acceptance, and finding value in yourself as a human being who is worthy of loving oneself and accepting the love of others. And this book doesn't do this by glossing over the emotional hardships and challenges that come with a life altering injury. I thought the author did a great job of addressing the emotional state of her main character and the way she worked through her recovery in a way that was accessible and easy to empathize with. It's an emotionally engrossing read that I think many will enjoy.

Margaret's first person narrative reads like a conversation with a friend. It's warm and inviting, even though the hard parts. She's surrounded by a quirky sister, sometimes overbearing mother, and supportive father. These characters are flawed, but still relatable and I loved hanging out with them, and watching them work through their fears and conflicts together.

Overall this is probably going to be one of my favorite books this year, it's the one I immediately told my bestie to grab a copy of and will be recommending to all my friends this summer.

Book Gawker's buy it or borrow it recommendation: Buy It

A free finished copy of this book was provided to me by Booksparks for their Summer Reading Challenge 2018.
All opinions are my own

Buy It:

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

Those who know me - know that Suspense/Thrillers are not my typical reading fare. But I really enjoyed Aimee Molloy's The Perfect Mother .

I read this for a book club and was blown away by the expert pacing and plotting of this domestic suspense novel. I also never saw the twist coming in the end - so points to Molloy for stumping me and keeping me on the hook all the way to the end. It reads similarly to Liane Moriarty's work ( Truly Madly Guilty and Big Little Lies) - so if you're a fan of hers, check this one out.

In this quickly paced novel, a group of first time mothers work together to bring home an abducted baby. On a sweltering Fourth of July night, during a Mom's Night Out, a baby is stolen from his crib. His mother and her friends, members of a mommy group called the May Mothers (named for the month of their children's births) all blissfully unaware that anything has happened until the babysitter calls telling them that the baby is gone. Reeling from the shock that something this tragic has happened so close to home and to one of their own the women work to unravel the events of the evening.

The story is told from the perspectives of three of the women, all with their own secrets to hide. Loyalties are tested, each chapter more revealing than the last. The narrative is clever and wonderfully misleading, causing the reader to second guess every move the characters make. Also, those snarky May Mothers emails that arrive daily in the women's inboxes - man I wanted to push delete so badly!

Molloy does an incredible job of misdirecting her reader - I was stumped throughout and never saw the end coming. She does an amazing job of revealing the insecurities, pressure and judgement that comes along with motherhood - especially the misconceptions we believe about ourselves and other moms out there. The writing is nuanced and never overwrought - the characters are relatable and realistically flawed, each with her own issues. It's very well done.

I'll definitely be checking out Aimee Molloy's next book.

Book Gawker's buy it or borrow it recommendation: Buy It

Buy It

When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger

Lauren Weisberger is back with yet another Devil Wears Prada novel and it’s a catty, hysterical page turner. It’s likely that if this book is on your radar, you’ve either read Lauren Weisberger’s other books or are at least familiar with the film version of TDWP. This stays true to her style and is full of snappy one liners, over the top characters and my favorite – sarcasm.

Emily Charlton, former first assistant to Miranda Priestly (as if you could forget the devil herself), has made a name for herself as a sought after image consultant. She’s married, living in LA and making a living keeping Hollywood’s starlets out of hot water. She’s at the top of her game until a younger, hipper version of herself begins poaching her clients. Where better to gather her thoughts and nurse her wounded ego than at her friend, Miriam’s, house in the suburbs of Connecticut?

Miriam thought moving to the suburbs would be a great way to raise her young family in a safe, family friendly environment. The only problem? She has nothing in common with the uber-wealthy, plastic surgery savvy, lululemon clad housewives of Greenwich, Connecticut. After having left her high profile job in the city, she’s about one goldfish cracker away from actually going crackers.

Enter Karolina Hartwell – former supermodel turned Senator’s wife (how very Kennedy-esque) who finds herself in jail for a night after being pulled over for a DUI. Who could need Emily’s image consultant prowess and Miriam’s legal aid more than Karolina, whose life is now turned upside down after such a public arrest? 

When Life Gives You Lululemons is full of the snark and sass that we would expect from Weisberger’s cattiest characters. It’s a quick, laugh out loud read with a few cringe worthy moments thrown in for good measure. Pick this one up for your book club/cocktail night with the girls, your next trip or just for a fun weekend read. It’s plenty of fun and perfectly suited for readers who prefer lighter fare in their reading. I would expect nothing less from this author and look forward to her future novels. 

A Review EGalley was provided by the publisher and netgalley for honest review. All thoughts are my own. 

Bookgawker's Buy it or Borrow It suggestion: Buy It

Buy It

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

Every time Emily Giffin releases a book I'm not quite sure how she can top her last - but she does.
Every. Dang. Time. 

Here's what I love about her work, she's not afraid to tackle relevant issues or messy relationships and does so with great finesse with her approachable, easy to relate to writing style. Her previous work has always been page turning prose that takes on social issues, delves into familial drama or navigates tricky relationships - but I'm not sure I've read another book by her that is as timely, powerful and emotionally charged as All We Ever Wanted.

Nina Browning has everything she could ever want. She belongs to Nashville's elite and uber-wealthy Belle Meade community, her son Finch is a star student at an elite prep school and is headed to Princeton and her husband Kirk is a successful businessman and devoted father.

Tom Volpe's life is a little less glamorous. By day he works a blue collar job as a carpenter, and by night drives Uber on the side. He hasn't been lucky in love and money is tight, but he makes enough to get by. He's a single dad - doing the best he can to provide for his daughter, Lyla.

Then an obscene photograph of a passed out girl at a party, complete with blatantly racist caption surfaces. The girl is Lyla and the photo originated from Finch's phone.

Nina and Tom find themselves in uncharted territory as parents, navigating what happened that night and questioning everything they thought they knew about their kids, parenting, ethics and those around them.

In a post Weinstein, #MeToo era - I think that many readers will find this book to be an incredibly relevant commentary on race, sexism, elitism, social class and a parent's approach to all of the above. It's a novel that is easily digestible, accessible and thought provoking that will resonate with Ms. Giffin's demographic. This isn't to say that there aren't a few weaknesses - I for one, really felt that the last 25% of the book was rushed and wish that the conclusion would have been a little more satisfying. I wanted a little more gumption from certain characters, but at the end of the day this is not my novel. These are not my characters. More importantly, I think what this book does really well is pose the question - "What would you do?" And to me, I think that exploration is really the point of this book.

Well done, Ms. Giffin, I can't wait to read what you come up with next!

Thank you, Random House / Ballantine Books and NetGalley for an advanced copy for review.
All opinions are my own.

Buy It

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

"There’s something about death that makes people want to live. We wanted to live that day, and I don’t blame us for it. Not anymore."
The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo 

You guys - unpopular opinion time.

I have been known to cry over books. Books with sad endings, books with infuriating endings, books with very happy endings. I get emotional. It's weird, I know. So I thoroughly expected to be wrecked by this book - all of the reviews said so, even Reese Witherspoon said so! 

Here's the thing about this book - I think if I had gone into it with different expectations maybe I would have different thoughts on it. Jill Santopolo sets out to write an epic love story about a first love that spans over a decade. And at times she does an outstanding job, but ultimately I found this novel to be predictable, trite and at times clichéd. I expected to have my heart ripped out - this story could after all - only end one way. But what I didn't expect was to feel so underwhelmed by the narrative and ending of this book.

The concept of this book is nothing new - a look into the past, wondering what could have been if timing had been different. What if the decisions that had been made had lead down different paths? It's a familiar concept that people like - I personally, don't mind ill fated romances as long as the story has the right sort of emotional quality. I just feel that there are other books that have done it better.

The writing isn't bad, it's fine, but I think that this novel would have been more effective if it had been narrated a little differently. The book is narrated entirely by Lucy in past tense. She's recalling memories, as if she's telling a story to someone. Unfortunately this mechanism is a dead give away to any adept reader about the condition of the person she's narrating to which made this very predictable. I know of other stories that are like this, Nicholas Sparks' The Choice or even The Best of Me. There were times I even thought of Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife, which I know is entirely different, but has similar themes of waiting on someone who isn't there. The difference between this novel and those being that the latter packed an emotional punch (as Sparks is apt to do) that this novel was missing. I believe that's mostly due to lack of shock factor and had the author taken a different stylistic approach the outcome may have been different. Overall the end of this novel left me feeling - meh.

I really wanted to like this more, but I believe that this novel was over-hyped and for readers who enjoy this type of book - there are other stories out there more worth the time.

Buy It

New Release Tuesday: Love and Ruin by Paula McLain

I didn't want to cause trouble; I only knew what I knew. That Ernest could eclipse me, as large as any sun without even trying. 

Paula McLain's latest biological fiction novel returns to a familiar subject for the author, Ernest Hemingway - or more accurately one of his wives. And while the novel is a lush and evocative retelling of Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway's love affair - the best word I can think of to describe it is languid.

At the beginning of the novel we're introduced to Martha Gellhorn, a spirited young woman with aspirations to be a writer. She's spent some time jaunting around Europe, has written a failed book and is now working on another. Marty is an interesting enough character on her own, but her story wouldn't be complete without Hemingway's larger than life persona - their affair, marriage and artistic competitiveness, the last of which ultimately lead to the demise of their relationship.

This book is beautifully written, the descriptions of Spain and especially Cuba are vivid to the point of verging on atmospheric. McLain does an absolutely spellbinding job of creating a real sense of place and time in her work. It's a truly engrossing novel that swept me away with Ernest and Marty. That said, this book is a languorous retelling of Gellhorn and Hemingway's lives together that seems to linger just a little bit more than it should at points.

Fans of McLain's earlier work should enjoy this story, told from the perspective of Hemingway's third wife - one who was not content to simply be a domestic accessory and instead demanded to stand on her own as a person and a writer. She's an admirable subject, and I felt in many ways the woman in whom Hemingway met his match. Hemingway was said to be a charismatic man - who was not known to be kind to women. He was a serial cheater who happened to be a brilliant writer. For someone like Martha Gellhorn, a young aspiring writer with her sights set on a successful career of her own, it's easy to see how she fell in love with Hemingway. It's just as easy, though, to see how she found herself in his shadow - eclipsed by his work. McLain does such an extraordinary job of allowing us inside Martha's head - sharing her insecurities, her triumphs and sadness with such ease. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the world through her lens.

I would recommend this to fans of historical fiction who enjoy character driven novels that read like a letter from a friend. I'm excited to see what Paula McLain does next.

Thank you to Random House and Netgalley for providing a free advanced egalley for me to review. 
All thoughts are my own. 

Buy It

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

“Grief was what you owed the dead for the necessary crime of living on without them.”

Kamila Shamsie's Home Fire is a slow building masterpiece that explores sibling love and sacrifice.
I loved everything about this book, the more I process it - the more I love it. It's beautifully written, evocative and painful. This type of novel takes a special talent - the craft alone here is meticulous. 

The story centers around three siblings - Isma is the oldest, who has spent the majority of her teenage years looking after her twin siblings, Aneeka and Parvaiz. The twins have reached the age of 18 and Isma now has the ability to move forward with her life - beginning with an opportunity to travel to America to further her education. Her story opens the novel, a chapter in which she's stopped by airport security and interrogated about her clothing, her life, and basically her motive for leaving England. 

You see, her father was a famous Jihadist. 

Aneeka and Parvaiz remain in London, each doing their own thing but remaining firmly intertwined in each other's lives. But then Isma and Aneeka find their world ripped out from beneath them when their brother disappears to follow in his father's footsteps and joins ISIS. 
This novel is political, that goes without saying. But examines humanity, social class, moral values, and familial ties. It's searing. 

I loved this though, if you're the type of reader that needs a hook right off the bat or quickly loses interest - this probably isn't for you. But if you're the kind of reader who appreciates a novel written with a quiet precision that builds to an outstanding ending - you will probably enjoy this novel like I did.

Long-listed for the Man Booker, Home Fire offers a modern spin on the Sophocles tragedy, Antigone. The parallels are easy to spot if you're familiar with the source material and if you aren't, I would check that out before picking this up to appreciate the full extent of Shamsie's work here.

Overall very well done and very thought provoking - though I wouldn't recommend to the casual reader, and reserve this for readers who enjoy work by authors who I feel have a similar quiet literary prowess and slow build in their work ie: Lauren Groff ( Fates & Furies ) or Mohsin Hamid's Exit West .

Buy It

The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo

"Maybe God was in the emptiness, in the cold and pain and despair. Maybe finding Him there would be faith. Maybe even imagining He could be there was hope."
- The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo

3.5-4 stars for Teresa Messineo's debut novel. I really enjoyed this book - it was well written, emotionally engrossing and an incredible tribute to the women who served their country on the front lines during WWII.

I feel like I've read a lot of WWII historical fiction - it's one of my favorite time periods in my favorite genre, so I think I have a fairly good grasp on the books that are out there and I haven't read anything like this before. If I had to give a comparison - there are a lot of parts that reminded me of Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken and the movie Pearl Harbor. I would like to say that the synopsis references The Nightingale and I would steer readers away from the comparison because the only piece that felt similar was the use of the dual narrative.

The story follows two women who become best friends during their training as nurses. When they are deployed, Kay finds herself in the tropical paradise of the South Pacific, while Jo travels to North Africa and Europe. As the novel goes on Kay narrates from Santo Tomas Internment Camp in the Phillipines - describing the horrors of Japanese internment in the South Pacific and the astronomical loss of human life to disease and starvation.

Jo, after traveling through Europe and Africa, is stranded in a field tent somewhere in occupied France. She's the last of the medical staff and with six injured men on her hands she's fatigued mentally and physically.

Of the two, I was more interested in Jo's story it seemed to move a little quicker than Kay's and I was more drawn into her role in taking care of her charges.

This novel really explores the physical and mental trauma of war, the sacrifice and bravery of all who were part of it - but does an wonderful job of bringing to light the terrible sacrifice of the women nurses who usually seem to be a side story in books about this topic. It gave me a whole new appreciation for combat nurses.

The only reason this wasn't a solid four/five star read for me was that there were disjointed parts of the narrative (I understand why the author did this, but it detracted from my reading experience) and the pacing felt stalled at times. Otherwise, it was very well done.

TW: Rape, graphic violence

Buy It