REVIEW — Dreamland

I was so excited to receive an Advanced Reader’s Copy of Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau from Endeavor Media! This was a fun romantic mystery about the summer of 1911 in Coney Island. Peggy Batternberg would rather be in Manhattan, working at her local bookstore, but is brought begrudgingly to the opulent hotels of Coney Island for the summer with her entire extended family. The Batternbergs happen to be very, very rich and are used to a certain level of propriety and standard of living, reminiscent of many Gilded Age families like the Vanderbilts.

Image result for dreamland coney island"

I have sadly never been to Coney Island, but I’ve always been fascinated by coastal beach towns & boardwalks. This book did a perfect job of setting the scene between the haves & the have-nots. I loved the richness of the settings described by the author and felt the delight in the atmosphere as I was reading.

Unfortunately, the characters felt a little flat to me. I wasn’t super invested in any of the Battenbergs, instead preferring the scenes when Peggy spent time with Stefan. Their romance was GREAT. I also really enjoyed the peripheral stories of the criminal activity going on allaround Coney Island.

All in all, this was a fun read, but it did feel a little rushed at the ending. This was a 3.5/5 star read for me, and I think if you’re someone looking for romance with a little mystery in an phenomenally atmospheric setting, this could be the book for you!

REVIEW — Westering Women

I was gifted a copy of Westering Women by Sandra Dallas from St. Martin’s Press in order to participate in a book tour. This was the first time I’ve been a part of a book tour and I really felt bad when the book I was reading was problematic & flat, because I couldn’t hold up my end of the bargain with the book tour with positivity & light.

The characters were flat and the pacing was slow. But beyond that, I felt uncomfortable with the problematic amounts of racism, misogyny, and abuse that were everywhere in the novel.

The background of this novel is that a group of women, escorted by two reverends, leave Chicago to find husbands in California. Our main character is Maggie, who is fleeing her abusive husband with her daughter, Clara. The entire novel follows the women on their harrowing journey across the United States – and all of these women have some secrets that get revealed throughout the novel.

While I was reading the book, I experienced a NUMBER of uncomfortable feelings & had really interesting conversations with friends about the moral obligation of historical fiction. This particular book upheld the stereotype that all Native Americans are “savages.” It had only one character of color with a name — and this character was lied to throughout the entire book about her parentage. Every man in the book (except one or two) was an absolute piece of garbage who abused their wives or raped their children while drunk.

I totally get that in the era, women were powerless to leave their abusers, were taken advantage of. I understand that to the travelers on the Overland Trail, Native Americans were seen as savages. I understand the context of this novel. What I don’t get is WHY another novel that perpetuates these notions was published by a major publisher in 2020.

We need to be more critical of the content we consume. I am pushing to get more #OwnVoices novels into my school library AND into my own reading life. This book is unfair to the marginalized voices in this story. I am constantly trying to be a better ally, educator, parent, and reader — and this book is NOT one I can recommend if you want to be the same.

REVIEW: The Wives

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher has been HYPED all over #bookstagram and was even a December Book of the Month selection! I chose it for my January BOTM box and was super excited to dive into it.

The premise of this novel is wild from the get-go: a man has three wives, none of whom know anything about each other. One day, one of the wives — “Thursday” — learns a snippet about the identity of one of the other wives, and goes down a rabbit hole of information. Thursday realizes that her husband is maybe not quite who she thinks he is once she meets this other wife.

This book gave me whiplash. There was A LOT going on here. I realized about halfway through the novel that I genuinely didn’t know the main character’s real name. I was wondering if there were multiple narrators or multiple story lines going on. I was reading at a rapid-fire pace because I couldn’t wait to find out what the hell was going on.

The ending though — WHAT. I was SUPER invested in the first half of the novel, and then — it was just frustrating. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but it was slightly problematic and unclear. I almost felt bad for the narrator and how lost & confused she was and how she clearly needed more support in her life that just wasn’t given to her.

I can’t give this book higher than a 3/5 star rating. It was well-written and fast-paced, but I can’t get past the WTFness of the ending.

Image result for the wives by tarryn fisher

TW: Mental Health & Domestic Violence

REVIEW: Tweet Cute

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for sending me an Advanced Readers Copy of Tweet Cute, Emma Lord’s debut young adult novel. This was a deliciously adorable read that will be super popular when it comes out later this month!

The story is told in two voices. Pepper’s parents own a burger chain called Big League Burger, and they’ve just decided to start selling a special grilled cheese sandwich. Jack’s family owns a deli called Girl Cheesing, where the most popular sandwich’s recipe, passed down by Jack’s Grandma Belly, happens to be the ‘special’ sandwich at Big League Burger. Jack & Pepper happen to manage the Twitter accounts of the two business, and their meme war, ragging on each other’s sandwiches, goes VIRAL.

Image result for grilled cheese
I craved grilled cheeses the WHOLE TIME I read this book.

Pepper & Jack also happen to attend the same school and participate in the same after school activities. They start off as enemies, but end up becoming friends and despite the tough words on Twitter, they actually kind of feel bad about hurting one another. Pepper’s a skilled baker, and Jack is a great app coder, both important sub-plots that play into their story. There’s also lots of fun family drama and some really goofy side characters. I also just loved the use of memes and tons of pop-culture references.

All in all, this book was totally adorable. It was a quick and fun read, and one that made my mouth water! I was craving grilled cheese sandwiches & Pepper’s baked goods the entire time I read this book. If you like enemies-to-lovers YA stories, this one should be on your TBR! It’ll be out on January 21, 2020.

December 2019 Wrap-Up!

I had a wonderful reading month in December! 8 Books, and most of which were 4-5 stars!

Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau: I was sent this ARC from Endeavour Media. I will be posting a review soon, but just know that this is a really fun & well-written historical mystery that takes place on Coney Island in 1911. It was awesome! 4/5 stars.

Followers by Megan Angelo: Full review here! I gave this 4/5 stars. Thanks to Graydon House for the ARC!

Commonwealth by Ann Pachett: Embarassingly, this was my first Ann Patchett book, and it was a great one to start with. I love family dramas, and this one certainly didn’t disappoint. This tells the story of the Keating & Cousins families and how their lives intertwine over five decades. It jumps in time from past to current day and was a sweeping and fascinating dive into these characters. 4.5/5 stars.

The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey: Full review here! 4/5 stars.

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson: I purchased this recently at the Harvard Bookstore Warehouse Sale and was told by my friend Ari to get to it immediately! Her recommendation was spot on. This was a twisty, fast-paced domestic thriller that kicks off when a man runs into a woman in Heathrow Airport on their way to Boston, and they come up with a plan to kill his wife. With a whole slew of unlikable characters, I shouldn’t have enjoyed this as much as I did, but there were twists galore and it was super fun. 4/5 stars.

Meg & Jo by Virginia Kantra: This is a modern-day retelling of Little Women, a literary classic. This was…not. It was a bit of a mess. I didn’t like the characterizations of Marmee & Papa in this retelling, and I’m not sure I was into the change of setting from Concord, MA to North Carolina. It was a cute, romantic read, and I really resonated with Meg’s character this time around. Am I going to read the follow up? Totally. 3/5 stars.

Long Bright River by Liz Moore: Full review here. 5/5 stars. This is phenomenally written and super important & timely.

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano: This book was the heartbreaking story of Edward Adler, the 12 year old lone survivor of a plane crash where he loses his parents and older brother. The book follows Edward as he tries to heal and grieve and find a ‘new normal,’ as well as flashes back to the characters on the plane before the incident. It was a difficult read but a great one that dives into what it means to grow up, found families, and moving on. 4/5 stars.

Long Bright River — Review

Long Bright River by Liz Moore was another choice in my December Book of the Month box and I am so, so glad I chose this one. This tells the story of Mickey, a Philadelphia police officer, who realizes her younger sister Kacey, an opioid addict, has gone missing. The tension is ratcheted when Mickey realizes that there appears to be a serial killer in her precinct, Kensington, a neighborhood known for its sex work and drug trade — and Kacey’s stomping grounds.

This dual timeline story partly focused on Kacey & Mickey’s childhoods and how so many memories and relationships are marred by drug use and poverty. They were raised by their grandmother because their mother suffered from addiction. It really highlighted how cyclical these patterns can become, and how hard they are to break.

The other timeline focuses on the mysterious circumstances in Kensington, and Mickey’s life as a single mother to her son, Thomas. I really enjoyed the focus on Mickey’s investigation into her missing sister, and the difficulties faced with being a female police officer. The neighborhood of Kensington itself was a fascinating snapshot of the world of the addicted.

I loved the quick pacing of this book, including short chapters and quick dialogue. Some may be turned off by the lack of quotation marks, but I found that it enhanced the pace. I also loved how the author made me feel that the city of Philadelphia — all its neighborhoods and politics — was another character in the story. It was reminiscent of Dennis Lehane’s police procedural novels.

I am a huge, huge fan of this book and will be looking to add some of Liz Moore’s backlist novels to my TBR. I gave this 5/5 stars and I cannot wait for others to read this when it is officially published on January 7, 2020.

Image result for long bright river

REVIEW: The Glittering Hour

I received The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey in my December Book of the Month box. It was a sweeping historical romance that spanned the course of eleven years through 1920s and 1930s London.

The story follows Selina Lennox Carew and her daughter, Alice. Selina has traveled to Burma with her husband Rupert to check on their ruby mines. Alice is left behind at the Lennox’s family estate, Blackwood. This location gave me vibes reminiscent of The Secret Garden — curt wait staff, children only allowed in certain areas of the house at certain time, and some overgrown landscaping. At Blackwood, Alice feels lonely and depressed, with the only bright spots in her day being letters from her mother & their trip. One of the maids, Polly, works with Selina to create a treasure hunt for Alice as well, and Alice is learning more and more about her mother with each clue.

At first, I wasn’t a fan of the dual timeline stories. It felt like Alice was just being used as a framing device for the story, and I wasn’t entirely sure how she fit in to the grand scheme of things. I found myself more drawn to the chapters and sections of the text that revolved around Selina and her friends, notorious London socialites known as Bright Young Things. The setting was decadent and Selina’s friends were an absolute joy to read about. Once I was moved further into the book, Alice, I grew to love both timelines equally. In fact, by the end, I was obsessed with the heartbreaking mother-daughter dynamic that really highlighted how oppressed women were at the time.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but I did predict a big piece of the ending pretty quickly. However, the author crafted the story in such a way that I was invested in these characters and wanted to see it through to the end. This was also a point in time I’m not too familiar with, but it has definitely inspired me to find more books set in this era!

If you’re a fan of historical romance, I think you’ll love The Glittering Hour. It has lovable characters, a lush setting, a little mystery, and a love of romance. This was a 4/5 star read for me!

Image result for the glittering hour