Audiobook Review, Historical Fiction, Romance

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Next Year in HavanaNext Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Havana, oh-na-na! Half of my heart is in Havana, oh-na-na.

Ok, I’ll stop.

But seriously, this book oozed Cuba! I could see the colorful building and old antique cars. But, I could also feel the heartbreak and struggle of the Cuban people at the hands of an oppressive government.

This book is about the past and the present. It’s 1958 and Elisa Perez, the daughter of a sugar baron, lives the life of a debutante. Her family has money and her father’s business is supported by Batista, the US-backed Cuban president who suspended the 1940 Constitution and turned the country into anything but a democracy. When Elisa falls in love with Pablo, a Castro supporter and rebel, her life is about to get very complicated. Meanwhile, Miami 2017. Elisa Perez passes away and her granddaughter, Marisol, is tasked with spreading her ashes in Cuba. It will be Marisol’s first trip to Cuba, the land of her ancestors and her heritage. But, will she dig up some skeletons from the past?

First of all, I feel like I didn’t get a thorough history lesson in Cuba and the Cold War in high school. This book was pretty eye opening. For a fictional book, I learned a ton about Fidel Castro’s rise to power, and the promises that were made the Cuban people that never materialized. Let me tell you something, if there is ever a time when you’re questioning your life in America, you need to read this book. The worst day in America sounds better than the best day in Cuba. Freedom is something that we take for granted.

Chanel Cleeton’s writing was beautiful. I loved the character development. I felt a connection to both the people and the place. There was good tension throughout the book that kept me engaged and wanting to know more. In fact, I can’t wait for the sequel, When We Left Cuba, which is expected to be out in April 2019.

It should also be mentioned that this book was one of Reese Witherspoon’s book club picks, which are always fantastic.

Finally, this audiobook was done extremely well. Loved the multiple narrators that were part of the story. They had a little hint of a Cuban accent that just took me there. Loved it.

Can’t recommend this book enough. I think it’s such an important piece of history to understand that isn’t talked about enough.

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Audiobook Review, Mystery, Romance, Thriller

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh

GhostedGhosted by Rosie Walsh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you asked me to describe how I feel about this book in one word: meh.

This book was fine. The concept was fine. The story was fine. It didn’t blow my mind but it was fine.

What’s the premise? Girl meets boy. Girl and boy fall in love in a matter of two weeks. Boy goes “ghost-mode” and falls off the face of the planet. Girl embarrassingly and desperately stalks boy to figure out why he’s not responding to herrrrrrrr……

I could NOT stand the main character in this book. I just wanted to say to her, “Girl, get a backbone. Have some self respect. Move on from this douche bag who won’t return your calls.” But no, she sits around and whines and mopes and cries about how the boy she has known for two weeks hasn’t call her back. Girl. Move on. He’s a jerk. Quit staring at your phone waiting for it to ding. Quit making excuses for him. Maybe “he’s just not that into you.” Don’t make me play the movie for you….

I digress.

Besides the embarrassment the main character bestowed on all independent women reading this book, the rest of the story was better. I think I liked the second half of the book much better than the first. It was kind of a mix between a thriller and a romance? Weird combination. The climax of the thriller portion happened around halfway through the book, and then it really turned into a romance from there on out.

There are more elements to the story that give it some depth which present themselves around the halfway point. And the characters have some difficult decisions to make and unique relationship dynamics are explored. This is where it got interesting for me.

Would I recommend this book to others? Probably not to be honest. Unless you enjoy listening to a tortured woman complain and pine over a man who leaves her high and dry. But who knows…. maybe I’m just crazy because I have lots of friends who really enjoyed it. Personally, I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it either. Again…. meh.

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Audiobook Review, General Fiction (Adult)

Home Front by Kristin Hannah

Home FrontHome Front by Kristin Hannah

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just love Kristin Hannah so darn much!

After reading The Nightingale and The Great Alone and absolutely falling in love, Kristin Hannah became my favorite author. And I’m now on a mission to read all of her books. Home Front happened to be the next one available at the library and in typical Kristin Hannah fashion, it was wonderful!

Home Front is set in 2005 and is about Joleen, a wife and mother of two daughters, who is a helicopter pilot in the National Guard. Her marriage is crumbling. Her husband, a workaholic, is regularly absent from family activities and events. And he doesn’t particularly agree with her participation in the military. When Joleen is unexpectedly deployed to Iraq, it could not be worse timing. Will her husband be able to fulfill the role of “Mr. Mom” when Joleen is gone? How can Joleen possibly miss a year of her children’s lives? But her sense of honor and duty propels her forward and there is nothing left to do but go.

Kristin Hannah plays with a lot of important issues in this book. Set only a few years after 9/11 when America was in the throes of the War on Terror, she perfectly portrays the split views of the American people. Some vehemently disagree with the war efforts. Some adamantly support the military and the men and women sacrificing their lives for their country. There is clearly a divide. In addition, PTSD has a heavy presence in multiple parts of the book. How soldiers deal with their grief. How they reincorporate into their family life after experiencing so many horrific events abroad.

I also found myself thinking of how our country supports its veterans when they return from home, particularly those who are wounded. This book is a perfect reason to make a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project. Donations to this important organization can be made here.

This book took me back to my high school years when the War on Terror was very real. Soldiers were constantly being deployed. The Middle East, terrorist groups, and war were terrifying concepts to wrap my young mind around. And Kristin Hannah’s portrayal of this time period is perfectly in line with my memories. I had a couple of friends who were deployed in the mid-2000s with whom I regularly communicated with while they were in the Middle East. It definitely takes a toll on the brave men and women fighting in a foreign place away from family and friends which was evident throughout the pages of Home Front.

I don’t know how Kristin Hannah manages to write books with such utterly different and diverse subject matter, and do it with expert execution. She is remarkable. And I cannot wait to read the rest of her work!

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Audiobook Review, General Fiction (Adult)

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little Fires EverywhereLittle Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Little Fires Everywhere is a book I’ve seen off and on for many months now in various Facebook groups and forums. People rave about it. So I put it on the wait list at the library. I finally got it after a couple months of patient waiting, and it was great!

Celeste Ng writes the tale of a few suburban families, the way their lives are interconnected, and the dynamics/relationships among the various characters. The Richardsons are a typical upper middle class family – Mom, Dad, and four kids. Mia Warren is a struggling artist who totes her daughter, Pearl, around the country, living with very little possessions. When the Warrens move to Shaker Heights, they rent Mrs. Richardson’s cozy duplex, and Pearl finds herself befriending the Richardson children. The McCulloughs also live in the neighborhood and have struggled for years to have children, until a baby is left at the fire station and their dreams come true. These three families will find their lives tied together in web of complication.

This story was so simple but wonderful at the same time. It felt like a real life story free of embellishment and exaggeration. I felt like it easily could have been nonfiction given how realistic and genuine the characters felt. They each had their own personality that shined through. I felt particularly connected to the stories of the children, and felt that their struggles throughout high school and their teenage years were very believable.

The ending didn’t make me feel very good to be honest, but it was bittersweet and fitting. This is my first Celeste Ng novel and it won’t be the last.

If you’re looking for an easy read that’s simple but lovely, this is the book for you.

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Audiobook Review, General Fiction (Adult)

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

My Sister's KeeperMy Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m a little late to this party considering the book was published in 2005 and the movie premiered in 2009, but better late than never! I’ve never read Jodi Picoult but hear fantastic things about her work so decided I would give this one a try. What a fantastic choice!

Anna, at age thirteen, hires a lawyer to pursue medical emancipation from her parents. What’s unique about Anna is that she was conceived specifically to save the life of her sister Kate, who suffers from cancer. Years and countless surgeries and procedures later, Anna continues to be poked and prodded for the sake of saving Kate, and she can’t do it anymore. Meanwhile, their mom is torn between allowing Anna freedom to make her own choices and keeping Kate alive.

The beauty of this book was the internal struggle I felt as the book progressed. The topic is tragic, heartbreaking, and so difficult to navigate. There is no right answer; there is no wrong answer. I could see the perspectives of all characters and found myself unable to pick a side.

I could tell that Jodi Picoult did her research too! The medical aspects of the book were done very well. They were clearly studied extensively, but furthermore, were explained in a way that would be understandable to the typical non-medically-educated reader.

And the ending was completely unexpected, but felt like it was destined to be. Exquisitely executed!

This book comes highly recommended if you want to read something a little controversial that will leave you internally questioning what side of the fence you lie on.

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