Romance, Young Adult

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, EverythingEverything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well y’all. I just joined a new book club in Nashville that I’m super excited about it. I’ve been trying out different book clubs in the area and nothing has really “fit” up to this point. But, a fellow Nashvillian told me about this book club and I decided to give it a try. I found out about it on Monday and my first meeting was Wednesday. The book…. Everything, Everything.

I don’t know if you know this…. but I read a lot. And even I was a little worried about getting the book read by Wednesday so I could be part of the discussion. But Everything, Everything is such a quick read that I finished it in a matter of 24 hours.

From the Publisher:

What if you couldn’t touch anything in the outside world? Never breathe in the fresh air, feel the sun warm your face . . . or kiss the boy next door? In Everything, Everything, Maddy is a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world, and Olly is the boy who moves in next door . . . and becomes the greatest risk she’s ever taken.

My absolute favorite thing about the book? The format. Super short chapters + varying format + illustrations. Short chapters are always a winner for me. I find books with short chapters difficult to put down because I’m always convincing myself that I can read just one more…. one more… one more…

The format was so interesting and perfect for this story. Nicola Yoon wrote in standard paragraph format for much of the novel but also used email, instant messaging, Maddy’s short book reviews, Maddy-approved definitions, and written schedules of those she observed to paint an overall picture of Maddy’s life. It somehow made the book feel so authentic and realistic because I could imagine an 18 year old girl who had been cooped up in a house her entire life trying to express herself through the different channels she had available to her.

Finally, the illustrations. What’s funny here is that I usually tend to listen to library books on audio but I decided to read this one in print. I’m so happy that I did because the illustrations were perfectly placed and executed (and drawn by the author’s husband), and I thought they enhanced the content of the book. One of the women I interacted with at book club listened to the audio and had no idea there were illustrations in the book. She didn’t feel like not having illustrations took anything away from the book, but I would still recommend reading versus listening to this one.

Beyond the formatting, the story was just heartwarming and cute. It definitely oozes young adult with the two main characters trying to discover who they really are as individuals as well as together. And there are a few surprises along the way that I didn’t see coming. Definitely a lot of content to unpack in a book club format and made for good discussion.

Overall, this was a really strong and powerful book. I thought it was thoroughly unique and I enjoyed reading it. Now I will have to go watch the movie to compare!

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Audiobook Review, Mystery

Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear

Sweet Little Lies (Cat Kinsella, #1)Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Eek. I’m finding this one a tad difficult to review. I chose this book as my Book of the Month pick many months ago and have finally gotten around to reading it…. well actually listening to it because audio is so much faster for me to get to and I requested it from the library.

Sweet Little Lies was totally not what I was expecting it to be. I was expecting a juicy and twisty thriller. Instead, I got a slow paced police procedural. But even despite the genre mix-up, I found the story just okay.

Cat Kinsella is a detective charged with investigating the murder of a woman named Alice Lapine whose body is found dumped in the woods. But when Alice turns out to really be Maryanne Doyle, a girl who vanished in 1998, the case starts to get strange.

I honestly don’t have a lot to say about this book because I found it to be kind of boring. While I ultimately appreciated the ending, it took a lot of “stuff” to get there. And the “stuff” was kind of long and drawn out and all over the place. I unfortunately never got invested in the story and found my attention ebbing and flowing with the audio as some parts reeled me in and then others lent themselves to periods of zoning out.

I wish I could say I loved this book more. There are plenty of rave reviews on Goodreads so my opinion should not be the determining factor for whether you read it. I’m kind of maxxed out on thriller/mysteries right now and am finding them harder and harder to wow me with new and fresh content. So I also may not be a great judge at the moment. Please feel free to check out other wonderful reviews for this book as you may find yourself on that side of the fence.

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General Fiction (Adult)

Go On, Girl by Hilary Grossman

Go On, GirlGo On, Girl by Hilary Grossman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First off, thank you to Hilary Grossman for reaching out to request an honest review of this book on my blog, Home Sweet Houser! If you haven’t already, check out her author page on Facebook for updates on all her books!

Go On, Girl is a book that most of us can relate to. It is the story of a mother named Sydney trying to support her young daughter in the best way she knows how. She works full time. She takes care of her household. And she has recently found herself in the role of scribe for the school’s PTA. Okay… maybe she was semi-blackmailed into that last one by the queen of the PTA Moms, Jackie. And when her and her husband get an offer to sell their house they can’t refuse, how will she break the news to Jackie? How will her daughter take the news of the move?

Hilary Grossman did such a great job creating characters that were both likable and despicable at the same time (and that’s a compliment). She struck such a nice balance that the characters felt extremely realistic. I think we all can relate to having both good and bad qualities. I found Jackie horrendously egotistical and pompous in the beginning of the book, but she ending up displaying really redeeming qualities of loyalty and friendship. Sydney in my opinion had no backbone and let people push her around and walk all over her which was infuriating, but she eventually found self respect and peace.

This book flew by in a breeze. At under 300 pages, it is a super fast read that I devoured overnight. And the conversational writing style makes reading very easy. And I really like the design of the cover. There’s something “suburban chic” about it that I love.

My biggest disappointment was that at times I felt like the story was too “surface level.” I felt like I would have liked to have gone deeper with the stories of the other PTA moms, with the relationship with Kara and the dynamic with Andrew. We got the tip of the iceberg with some of these character and I wanted more.

There were two quotes that really stuck out to me that I feel are pertinent to share in this review:

“I learned first impressions weren’t always accurate, and often it took a lot of time and effort to understand a person.”

“I’d spent so much of the past seven years living my life in a blur, trying to cram as much as humanly possible into a day. I’d missed out on so much in the process, like having dear girlfriends. It wasn’t until you knew something was about to end that you realized how fortunate you were to have had it in the first place.”

Overall, I would recommend this one to anybody looking for a lighthearted and quick read with dashes of humor.

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General Fiction (Adult), Southern Fiction

The Southern Side of Paradise (Peachtree Bluff #3) by Kristy Woodson Harvey

The Southern Side of ParadiseThe Southern Side of Paradise by Kristy Woodson Harvey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Out May 7th!

I am crying happy and sad tears right now after finishing The Southern Side of Paradise! Happy tears because it was so fantastic and sad tears because the Peachtree Bluff series has come to a close. I have simply adored getting to know Ansley, Caroline, Sloane, and Emerson first through Slightly South of Simple, then through The Secret to Southern Charm, and finally with The Southern Side of Paradise. I can’t believe it is over!

Now let me just reiterate for those who haven’t read my other reviews for this series. Let’s talk about these covers! Gorgeous, right? If this isn’t the definition of a “beach read” then I don’t know what is! Even my husband thinks they’re beautiful… so there’s that…

Kristy Woodson Harvey takes us back to Peachtree Bluff in the telling of Emerson’s story. When Emerson, the Hollywood starlet, finds herself engaged to her high school sweetheart, a man set on remaining in Peachtree Bluff and keeping his wife there with him, she has quite the dilemma. Does she follow her dream of becoming an Oscar-winning actress or does she give it all up to stay in Peachtree Bluff with the man she loves?

The best thing about this series is that it is such a “feel good” presence. While the sisters fight at times like any good sisters do, in the end they always have each other’s backs. The love the sisters have for each other shines through and makes you feel so warm and fuzzy inside. But don’t get it twisted! There is plenty of drama and enough challenging moments to go around (which keeps the book super interesting).

I devoured The Southern Side of Paradise while sitting poolside in Miami in a day. It was the perfect summer read to enjoy with a strawberry daquiri in my hand and the sun in my face. I cannot recommend this series enough!

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Historical Fiction

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

The Guest BookThe Guest Book by Sarah Blake

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Out May 7th! Pre-order from Amazon here!

I have such mixed feelings about this book so I think I’m going to need to break it down in pieces to sort through my emotions.

1. The Writing. A freaking plus! 5 stars! Sarah Blake is an extraordinary talent when it comes to her writing style. Her work kind of reminds me of the great classics in that it’s so elegantly executed with sweeping, graceful prose. She truly captured the scenery and the essence of the island and made me feel like I was right there in the book with all of the characters.

2. The Content. 3 to 4 stars. The overall message of race and equality was executed well for the most part and this is the portion I would give 4 stars. I understood the point she was trying to make and the content she was trying to drive home. But while the message was there, there were times it got a tad lost in all of the minutiae along the way. Now for the 3 star piece of the content…. the relationships and timeline. The book covers several generations of characters and stories (which is superb) but there were times where I needed to mentally reset and remember which timeline I was in with which characters. And the relationships of the characters to each other sometimes became a tad muddled and confusing. Frankly, I needed a family tree to reference at times to keep myself straight.

3. The Length. 2 stars. Listen… I’m all for long novels. When the length is warranted. This book probably could have benefited from editing down 50 – 100 pages of content. While Blake’s writing is beautiful, there were portions of the book where descriptions of characters or scenery or feelings were so long and drawn out it felt bogged down.

4. The Characters. 5 stars. While there were a lot of them, the characters were very well developed. In fact, some of the secondary characters were so good that they felt like primary characters and their stories really shone through. I could tell Blake put a lot of thought into developing distinct personalities and traits of each character.

Overall, this is not a quick and easy book to read. It takes a lot of focus, attention, and patience. It is definitely not a book that you can put down and pick up repeatedly. I found myself needing to dedicate large chunks of time to read it so that my brain could focus and absorb the information presented. It is extremely dense but it has an important message.

I don’t think this book will be for everybody and judging by the reviews so far on Goodreads you’re probably in one of two camps: those who appreciate Blake’s writing and message and those who couldn’t finish the first 100 pages. But if you can see it for more than just entertainment and as an exercise in thoughtful reflection, you will likely find it rather superb.

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-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Sarah Blake, and Flatiron Books for the opportunity to review.-

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