Tag Archives: book review

Little Fires Everywhere

Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Happy Friday! Hope everyone is enjoying themselves, and had a lovely Valentine’s/Fat Tuesday/Ash Wednesday/other random holiday this week. Last week I mentioned that I was behind on my Goodreads challenge – I’m proud to report that I’m all caught up and back on track. For now, at least. I’m at 11 books read so far this month, and let me tell you, I’ve had some really good ones. So far, my reading year is light years ahead of last year and the year before. And it’s interesting, because I’m reading things that are outside my comfort zone and loving them. This week’s review, Little Fires Everywhere started off that way – not something I was terribly interested in, but I picked it up because it had a great rating (4.18) and I’d seen a million bloggers talking about it.

Those of you who love a good family saga will adore Little Fires Everywhere. If books like Emma Straub’s The Vacationers, Janet Fitch’s White Oleander, or Imbolo Mbue’s Behold The Dreamers aren’t your thing, you may want to give this one a pass. As it turns out, I really like these kinds of stories – I just hadn’t entirely realized it until reading (and then reviewing) Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere.

Little Fires Everywhere introduces us to several families: the Warrens, the Richardsons, the McCulloughs, each of them different and yet, strangely, similar. Ng explores so many ideas of family and the threads that tie us together that it’d take me days to explain them all. One thing I can tell you, though, is that reading Little Fires Everywhere really makes you appreciate the fact that no one’s family is perfect – far from it, in fact. Sure, we might have different levels of dysfunction, but all of us have messed up families. The trouble comes not from the messed up bits themselves, but from ignoring them, from pretending everything’s fine in order to appear “normal.” How much better we’d be if we embraced the messy parts – that’s what’s at the heart of Little Fires Everywhere.

It’s a really clever title, truthfully. There are both literal and figurative fires throughout the entire story, sure. But then, the book itself kind of reads like a bunch of little fires everywhere…it starts with one, then the flames die down. Soon enough, there’s another fire. Flames die down, then again, another fire. And so on and so forth, until the last flame is extinguished and everyone is left wondering if there’s something wrong with them for breathing a great huge sigh of relief.

There isn’t.

Hardcover: 352 pages    Published: September 2017 by Penguin    Source: Library via Overdrive

Buy it on Amazon for $14

Little Fires Everywhere on Goodreads

The brilliant new novel from the author of the New York Times bestseller, Everything I Never Told You.

Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak.

alicenetwork

Review: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Good morning! Let’s take a minute for some real talk – it’s only the end of January and I’m already BEHIND on my Goodreads challenge to read 100 books. I’m doing my best not to let it stress me out (crazy, I know), because I know I’ll catch up. But man, that “you’re behind schedule” note is killing me! Anyone else doing a challenge this year?

But you’re here for the book review, not to hear me lament my reading progress. So without further ado, let’s talk about the audiobook it took me THREE MONTHS to finish.

Yep, you read that right. It took me three months to finish listening to the 15-hour audio version of Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network. Granted, it only took me that long because I pretty much only listen in the car on the drive to and from work…and I telelworked for most of November and all of December. So, really, that’s not that bad….right?

The Alice Network was nominated for last year’s Goodreads Choice Awards, but ended up losing the Historical Fiction category to Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours. I haven’t read that one, but I do understand why The Alice Network didn’t take the win. Like many historical fiction novels – or at least the ones I gravitate towards – The Alice Network is told in both past and present timelines. The first half of the book is fascinating. Most of the story is set in the past, and we learn about Eve and how she became part of the all-female spy network in WWI. (The Alice Network, though not called that, was real, and the history is pretty neat.)  Charlie’s story in the present isn’t anything special, and unfortunately, a little over halfway through the story shifts more to her than to Eve. She’s set out to find her cousin Rose, and when that gets resolved I honestly couldn’t figure out why we were still going.

Oh wait, because we have to have a love story and a revenge murder. Sigh. The last third or so is set entirely in the present, with Eve and Charlie’s stories somewhat intersecting. It just didn’t work for me.

And what was with Charlie’s whole math thing? That was totally weird – Charlie just randomly says things like, “boy plus girl equals y” or whatever. Best I could tell, it had absolutely nothing to do with anything, other than Charlie was supposed to be good at math. Which had no bearing on the story, since all she did for most of the book was ride in a car, moon at Finn, and whine about Rose.

Annoyances aside, I did enjoy The Alice Network, perhaps most of all because it introduced me to a part of history I didn’t even know existed. I recommend it for that alone, but that’s not the only reason to read this book. Read it for badass Eve.

Paperback: 520 pages    Audio: 15 hours

Published: June 2017 by William Morrow    Source: Purchased via Audible

Buy it on Amazon for $10

The Alice Network on Goodreads

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.

“Both funny and heartbreaking, this epic journey of two courageous women is an unforgettable tale of little-known wartime glory and sacrifice. Quinn knocks it out of the park with this spectacular book!”—Stephanie Dray, New York Times bestselling author of America’s First Daughter

ensnared

Review: Ensnared by Rita Stradling

Happy Friday! Today I’ve got a fairy tale retelling for you – Rita Stradling’s Ensnared. It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, set in the “near-future,” where androids (humanoid robots, not the operating system!) are just starting to become a real thing. If you’ve seen the television show Humans, that’s kinda what I was picturing. Slightly less creepy than Westworld.

I’ve only read a handful of fairy tale retellings, and most of those have been from Marissa Meyer, so I’ll be the first to admit I’m not an expert here. To me, the good ones are the ones where you can recognize the similarities to the original story, but it doesn’t feel like a rehash. I thought Stradling did a fairly decent job with Ensnared. The parallels to Beauty and the Beast were pretty obvious, but also distinct enough to be interesting. I liked the sci-fi aspect with artificial intelligence, and appreciated that it was “dumbed down” enough for someone with very little scientific interest to grasp.

Overall, I enjoyed the story, but I definitely understand why people are criticizing it. With good science fiction (which is what this is, in my mind), you really have to be able to suspend disbelief – which places a LOT of pressure on the author to create a world that’s rich in detail and context. This is where Ensnared falls short. I read most of the book with a hefty dose of skepticism for where the story was going. Truthfully, I picked it apart, saying to myself, “well how is she going to shower/eat/use the bathroom?” or “that’s never going to work” or “yeah right, like that’s reasonable.” What kept me reading was less about knowing what happened than it was knowing whether Stradling was going to give me answers to these pressing questions of mine. (Some she did, some she didn’t.)

Despite that, though, Ensnared was a quick, light read, and if you’re a fan of retellings, definitely give this one a shot.

Kindle Edition: 419 pages    Published: May 2017 (self-published)    Source: Publisher via Netgalley

Buy it on Amazon for $4 (Free with Kindle Unlimited)

Ensnared on Goodreads

A Near-Future Retelling of Beauty and the Beast 

Alainn’s father is not a bad man. He’s a genius and an inventor. When he’s hired to create the robot Rose, Alainn knows taking the money is a mistake.

Rose acts like a human. She looks exactly like Alainn. But, something in her comes out wrong.

To save her father from a five year prison sentence, Alainn takes Rose’s place. She says goodbye to the sun and goes to live in a tower no human is allowed to enter. She becomes the prisoner of a man no human is allowed to see.

Believing that a life of servitude lies ahead, Alainn finds a very different fate awaits her in the company of the strange, scarred recluse.

the great alone

Review: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah is back with The Great Alone, her first book since 2015’s hit, The Nightingale. Set in 1970s Alaska, The Great Alone is my second Hannah book. I read The Nightingale, and while I enjoyed it, I couldn’t help but wonder what all the fuss was about. I gave it 4 stars – to me, it was slightly better than average, but it wasn’t thebestbookI’deverread. Regardless, the synopsis for The Great Alone intrigued me enough to pick it up, and since I’d liked The Nightingale, I figured I was in for a pretty good read.

And as it turned out, I did enjoy The Great Alone, but it took a REALLY long time to get there. Like….half the book long time. I’ll be honest and admit to nearly abandoning it after I’d read roughly 100 pages. But, I kept going, and eventually fell into the rhythm of the story.

Unlike The Nightingale, The Great Alone is a rather….slow?…story. It’s much more about the characters than it is about any kind of story. In general, The Great Alone is like watching through the window as the Allbright family moves to Alaska and then learns how to survive there. The tension comes, surprisingly, not from Alaska, but from the abuse Leni and her mother suffer at the hands of her father. For me, that was kind of a turn off…I would much rather have read about them fighting off bears than fighting off an abusive father with PTSD.

And that was another thing that bugged me – the characters, Ernt in particular, lacked the depth necessary to care about them. Everything felt like it was on the surface, and that I was supposed to take Leni’s love for her mother at face value just because Kristin Hannah told me it was there. I also loathed the all-consuming descriptions of love both Leni and her mother had for their men. I think Hannah was trying to show the conflicting emotions abuse survivors go through, but to me, it just felt overdramatic.

What I did like, though, were the glimpses we got of life in Alaska, and the pioneer spirit exhibited by the townspeople of Kaneq. The interactions Leni has with Large Marge, Tom, and the rest of the crew really drives home the idea that family isn’t always blood. That, I think, is The Great Alone’s biggest strength – it shows that even when you think you’re alone and helpless, there are people around you who want to help.

Well, unless you’re an abusive husband, that is.

Hardcover: 448 pages    Published: February 2018 by St. Martin’s Press    Source: Netgalley

Pre-order it on Amazon for $19

The Great Alone on Goodreads

Alaska, 1974.
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if means following him into the unknown.

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.

transference

Review: Transference by Kate Jonuska

If you’ve ever wished for the ability to read minds, you need to read Kate Jonuska’s Transference. It will unequivocally make you rethink that desire, all the while leaving you morbidly fascinated with the possibilities.

I make a habit of letting my authors know when I’ve started their book – for one thing, it keeps me focused on finishing it, and I figure it’s also nice to give them a heads up/note to say I haven’t forgotten them. When I messaged Kate after I was about 30% in, I told her I was both enthralled and horrified – and that’s pretty much my entire opinion of Transference in a nutshell.

I have to give Kate credit, because it takes a great writer to be able to craft an utterly despicable, repulsive character and not turn the reader away, but instead compel them to keep reading. Verbenk is awful – God, he’s so awful. And he’s pretty much awful for the whole book. (To be fair, Janet isn’t exactly a peach either.) Every so often, there’s a tiny glimmer of decency, and then BAM, he’s back to being a horrid human being. And yet…I liked him. Or, maybe I didn’t like him, but in a way I sympathized. How terribly difficult would it be to censor your thoughts every time you were around someone? How unnatural would that feel? How challenging….and how exciting?

Because in an odd way, the story is exciting. Verbenk and Janet are the most unlikely duo facing the most unlikely odds…but somehow, it works. It’s like a twisted superhero story, and it was absolutely delicious.

Paperback: 240 pages    Published: August 2017 (self published)    Source: Author Provided

Buy it on Amazon for $5 (Free with Kindle Unlimited)

Transference on Goodreads

Currently a finalist for the BookLife Prize, hosted by the indie arm of Publisher’s Weekly!

Professionally ruined, morally bankrupt and reflexively snarky, psychiatrist Derek Verbenk is a f*ck-up by even his own measure. Major errors in judgment have sentenced the once ambitious doctor to a career handing out prescriptions to rich housewives from his home office in Cherry Creek — until a superpowered new patient turns Verbenk’s life upside down and his soul inside out.

Romping through Denver, breaking through barriers of privacy, social isolation and even politics, Transference is an odd-couple quest toward redemption full of wicked humor and radical honesty.

crossroads of should and must

Review: The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna

I’ve sort of loosely decided to read more “personal growth” books this year – and yes, I know that’s a fancy way of saying self-help. Truth be told, most of them don’t have a ton of earth shattering information in them, but a good self-help book often gives a hefty dose of motivation to do whatever it is you’ve been trying to convince yourself to do. On that reasoning, when I saw The Crossroads of Should and Must available through Overdrive, I figured I’d go ahead and get started on that goal.

The Crossroads of Should and Must is one of the most aesthetically pleasing books I believe I’ve ever read. Elle Luna is an artist, and her (very short) book is full of artsy quotes and graphics. She makes the argument that each of us has things we MUST do, things that make us feel alive. And of course, all the things we think we SHOULD do…which may or may not coincide with our musts. Her idea is that we shouldn’t (hehe) sacrifice our musts in favor of our shoulds.

I know that description sounds a little murky, rest assured Luna did a better job in her book.

That said, The Crossroads of Should and Must fell a little flat for me. Part of that might have been the length – Luna alludes to the blog post that preceded the book, and I kept thinking she’d just revised that, thrown in some pictures, and called it a book. I don’t know if that’s the case or not, and didn’t feel the need to find out. The information she shares is…..basic. Not bad, not at all….but not exactly inspiring or compelling or, really, even all that helpful. Interesting, sure. Motivating? No.

All that to say – if you find yourself in an airport, or on a bus, or otherwise unoccupied for an hour or so – give The Crossroads of Should and Must a go. If you like pretty pictures, give it a go. If you’re looking for a kick in the pants….give it a go, but then follow it up with How to Be Everything.

Hardcover: 161 pages    Published: April 2017 by Workman Publishing    Source: Library via Overdrive

Buy it on Amazon for $12

The Crossroads of Should and Must on Goodreads

Who hasn’t asked the question “How can I find and follow my true calling?” Elle Luna frames this moment as “standing at the crossroads of Should and Must.” “Should” is what we feel we ought to be doing, or what is expected of us. “Must” is the thing we dream of doing, our heart’s desire. And it was her own personal journey that inspired Elle Luna to write a brief online manifesto that, in a few short months, has touched hundreds of thousands of people who’ve read it or heard Elle speak on the topic. Now Ms. Luna expands her ideas into an inspirational, highly visual gift book for every recent graduate, every artist, every seeker, every career changer.

The Crossroads of Should and Must has a universal message—we get to choose the path between Should and Must. And it gives every reader permission to embrace this message. It’s about the difference between jobs, careers, and callings. The difference between going to work and becoming one with your work. Why knowing what you want is often the hardest part. It gives eye-opening techniques for reconnecting with one’s inner voice, like writing your own obituary (talk about putting life in perspective). It talks about the most common fears of choosing Must over Should—money, time, space, and the ultimate fear: total vulnerability—and shores up our hesitation with inspiring stories of and quotes from the artists and writers and thinkers who’ve faced their own crossroads of Should and Must and taken the leap. It explains the importance of mistakes, of “unlearning,” of solitude, of keeping moving, of following a soul path.

Presented in four chapters—The Crossroads, The Origin of Should, Must, and The Return—inspired by the hero’s journey outlined by Joseph Campbell, The Crossroads of Should and Must guides us from the small moment, discovering our Must, to the big moment—actually doing something about it, and returning to share our new gifts with the world.

while my pretty one knits

Review: While My Pretty One Knits by Anne Canadeo

Last year, I participated in the Cruisin’ thru the Cozies Challenge. If you missed my earlier posts about the challenge, I only needed to read 10 cozy mysteries – but they all needed to be from different sub-genres. For the most part that wasn’t too difficult, but one of the ones that I had to dig for was the crafts or hobbies sub-genre. Thankfully, I managed to find a copy of While My Pretty One Knits a week or so before the end of December!

While My Pretty One Knits is the first in the Black Sheep Knitting Mystery series written by Anne Canadeo. Like most cozies, it’s set in a small town and features a handful of characters who I imagine will be central to the rest of the series. The general gist of the story is that a rival knitting shop owner turns up murdered; and of course the main suspect is the proprietor of the Black Sheep.

The first thing I’ll say is that I was really thrown off by who the main character was. Turns out, it’s not Maggie, the shop owner – even though the first chapter sets it up to think she is. Nope, it’s Lucy, who isn’t even mentioned in the first chapter. Or if she is, it was so brief I didn’t remember it. I spent half of the second chapter trying to figure out who in the world she was. (A friend and fellow knitter, apparently.)

That kind of set the stage for the rest of the book. As a very baby knitter, I enjoyed some of the knitting references – but they were few and far between, and didn’t make me WANT to knit. And that’s a big deal. When you read a cozy, a good cozy, you should be totally engrossed in the world. You should WANT there to be wish-granting-witches, or talking ghost dogs, or delicious bread shops. You shouldn’t be totally disinterested in the theme, because then why are you reading the book? I picked up While My Pretty One Knits because I enjoy knitting – I’m not so sure any of the characters in the book actually did.

And the story was utterly predictable and boring.

Such a shame, really – anyone know any good knitting stories?

Paperback: 249 pages    Published: May 2009 by Gallery Books    Source: Purchased

Buy it on Amazon for $11

While My Pretty One Knits on Goodreads

The Black Sheep Knitters — Maggie, Lucy, Dana, Suzanne, and Phoebe — meet once a week without fail, sharing the varied and colorful skeins of their lives as much as knitting tips, recipes, and small-town gossip, and creating an intricate, durable pattern of friendship. Now a shocking murder has peaceful Plum Harbor, Massachusetts, in knots — and the Black Sheep women must herd together to protect one of their own from a scandalous frame-up.

Maggie Messina, beloved owner of the Black Sheep Knitting Shop, is thrilled to be hosting a workshop for one of her former students, now a celebrity in the knitting world. But the celebration is upstaged when Amanda Goran, the owner of the rival Knitting Nest, is found dead in her shop on the other side of town.

Maggie had reasons to dislike Amanda, a thorn in her side ever since Maggie’s shop surpassed Amanda’s in popularity. Then again, it wasn’t hard to dislike Amanda — the contentious woman, whose marriage was on the rocks, seemed to specialize in causing misery all over town. But the pointed evidence has a detective casting a suspicious eye on Maggie. She may be a whiz at knitting, but can she keep the police from needling her before her shop, her reputation, and her circle of friends become unraveled?

thewickedcity

Blog Tour: The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams

Beatriz Williams’ The Wicked City is an ode to the Roaring 20s, full of glitz and glamour. It wasn’t my first book by Williams – a few years ago I tried, and failed, to read The Secret Life of Violet Grant, though I think that was my timing and not the book. I went into The Wicked City with an open mind and very little knowledge of either the Jazz Age or the book itself.

The Wicked City spans two timelines, though the majority of the story takes place in the past. I’m generally a fan of alternating stories, but only when they’re done well. I need to feel connected to both timelines, and both sets of characters. Williams managed to hook me well enough, but I wanted a lot more about Ella. She felt largely unimportant, strange, considering the opening chapters. Perhaps her main purpose was to provide context for Gin’s story, which is ok – but frankly, didn’t add much.

In addition to the differing timelines, The Wicked City also switches perspectives. Gin’s story is told in first person, Ella’s in third. While jarring at first, because there’s so little of Ella in the book I eventually got used to it. I think the switch works, though; by hearing Gin’s story in her own words, we’re more involved in it.

I loved the setting for The Wicked City, and love that we’re starting to see more of the Jazz Age in both literature and cinema. I think the early half of the 20th century is one that a lot of us don’t know enough about – which is crazy, considering we’re not that far removed from it! History classes typically skipped over the details and went straight to the big pieces like the Great Depression and World War I, but there’s a lot of rich history left to uncover. Factual or not, I enjoyed The Wicked City if for no other reason than it gave my imagination an excuse to run wild.

Paperback: 384 pages    Published: December 2017 by William Morrow Paperbacks (reprint)

Source: Publisher via TLC

The Wicked City

In the first book of a breathtaking new trilogy by bestselling author Beatriz Williams, two generations of women are brought together inside a Greenwich Village apartment —a flapper hiding an extraordinary past, and a modern-day Manattanite forced to start her life anew.

When she discovers her banker husband has been harboring a secret life, Ella Gilbert escapes her SoHo loft for a studio in Greenwich Village. Her charismatic musician neighbor, Hector, warns her to stay out of the basement after midnight, when a symphony of mysterious noise strikes up—laughter, clinking glasses, jazz piano, the occasional bloodcurdling scream—even though the space has been empty for decades. Back in the Roaring Twenties, the basement was home to one of the city’s most notorious speakeasies.

In 1924, Geneva “Gin” Kelly, a quick-witted flapper from the hills of western Maryland, is a regular at this Village hideaway. Caught up in a raid, Gin lands in the office of Prohibition enforcement agent Oliver Anson, who persuades her to help him catch her stepfather, Duke Kelly, one of the biggest bootleggers in Appalachia.

But Gin is nobody’s fool. She strikes a risky bargain with the taciturn, straight-arrow Revenue agent, and their alliance rattles Manhattan society to its foundations, exposing secrets that shock even this free-spirited redhead.

As Ella unravels the strange history of her new building—and the family thread that connects her to Geneva Kelly—she senses the Jazz Age spirit of her exuberant predecessor invading her own shy nature, in ways that will transform her existence in the wicked city.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Beatriz Williams

Photo by Marilyn Roos

A graduate of Stanford University with an MBA from Columbia, Beatriz Williams spent several years in New York and London hiding her early attempts at fiction, first on company laptops as a communications strategy consultant, and then as an at-home producer of small persons, before her career as a writer took off. She lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore.

Find out more about Beatriz at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow for the chance to participate in this tour! 

stars are fire

Review: The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve

Anita Shreve is known for writing characters readers want to root for. Her characters are often so real that we find ourselves imaging our own reactions to the situations she places them in. She writes in a way that makes us empathize, often without even realizing it. Her latest novel, The Stars Are Fire, is no different.

One thing I’ll mention – and this really wasn’t a big deal – is that other than being loosely set in a town ravaged by fires in 1947, there’s very little to make this a historical fiction novel. The story could easily have taken place in another town in another place. That’s part of what makes The Stars Are Fire beautiful. It’s a timeless story of survival and redemption.

The other quick thing I’ll say is that you need to stick with this one. It’s short, only about 250 pages, but don’t mistake short for quick. The first two chapters felt interminable, and that’s what’s kept me from giving The Stars Are Fire five stars. Thankfully, the story picks up in the third chapter, and just keeps going. After I hit that third chapter, I couldn’t put it down….it was a 3am night for me. Worth it, though.

At first, I had a hard time with Grace. I didn’t understand why she put up with her husband. But that’s the point – you need to be frustrated with her in order to cheer for her. A woman you assume will be weak and helpless, is quite the opposite – and she does it naturally, without fanfare. Grace simply sets her mind to what must be done, and does it. That’s not to say she doesn’t have help along the way, because she does. The secondary (and even tertiary) characters are all superb, and feel just as important as Grace.

I wanted more information about the Great Fires of 1947 after reading The Stars Are Fire. The New England Historical Society has a pretty good overview here if you’re interested. Last year we experienced terrible wildfires here in the Smokies. Who knows, maybe someday Anita Shreve will write a book about us.

Hardcover: 241 pages    Published: April 2017 by Knopf Publishing    Source: Library via Overdrive

Buy it on Amazon for $14

The Stars Are Fire on Goodreads

In October 1947, after a summer-long drought, fires break out all along the Maine coast from Bar Harbor to Kittery and are soon racing out of control from town to village. Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her husband, Gene, joins the volunteer firefighters. Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie’s two young children, Grace watches helplessly as their houses burn to the ground, the flames finally forcing them all into the ocean as a last resort. They spend the night frantically protecting their children and in the morning find their lives forever changed: homeless, penniless, awaiting news of their husbands’ fate, and left to face an uncertain future in a town that no longer exists. In the midst of this devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms–joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain–and her spirit soars. Then the unthinkable happens and Grace’s bravery is tested as never before.

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year of second chances

Review: A Year of Second Chances by Buffy Andrews

I love a good redemption story. That probably isn’t much of a surprise – after all, my favorite book is A Man Called Oveand if that isn’t a redemption story, I don’t know what is. I love characters that reinvent themselves, either by choice or by circumstance. Character growth is where it’s at for me! A Year of Second Chances sounded like a great redemption story, and light enough to help me bust out of my reading slump.

The story starts off with Scarlett having a cancer scare, and then finding the bucket list she wrote in high school. When she looks at the list, she realizes she never did any of it. She decides there’s no time like the present, and sets out to complete her list.

I had my own list in high school, but unlike Scarlett, I’ve kept mine and added to it. For a while, I even had it posted on my blog – I called it my Up in Smoke list. (It’s actually still there somewhere, I just can’t find it!) Like Scarlett, I’ve only completed a handful. It’s got all sorts of things on there, like trying stand-up paddleboarding (done, thank you!), and touching a panda.

Unfortunately, while A Year of Second Chances was a light, fun read, it was also completely…shallow. I’m not even sure how to describe it, other than to say that Scarlett just picked something on her list and magically accomplished it. There was very little description of struggle or obstacle, and very little insight into what she was thinking or feeling. The whole thing felt entirely too superficial. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it – it just wasn’t the read I’d hoped for.

Kindle Edition: 384 pages    Published: June 2017 by HQ Digital Source: Publisher via Netgalley

Buy it on Amazon for $4

A Year of Second Chances on Goodreads

When Scarlett comes across a box containing her most precious items from her teenage years, she’s forced to confront the adult she has become. As a divorced mother of two twentysomethings, Scarlett has to admit her life has ground to a halt! Whatever happened to that girl whose hopes and dreams were so naively displayed in a wish list for her life?

So, armed with the list, Scarlett sets about checking off each and every item possible, determined to fulfil her promises to her younger self. Some are easy. Dancing in the rain? Bring on the next thunderstorm! Marrying her high-school sweetheart? Not so easy when married Jake lives clear across the country!

But what started out as a challenge to herself quickly takes on a life of its own, catapulting Scarlett out of her slump and into a life even her younger self could never have dreamed of!

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