General Fiction (Adult), Romance

Night Road by Kristin Hannah

Night RoadNight Road by Kristin Hannah

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am so hungover….

And not from too much alcohol. From yet another story told by Kristin Hannah that tugs at my heartstrings.

Talk about a roller coaster of emotions. After loving The Nightingale and The Great Alone, one of my friends recommended that I read Night Road. But she did warn me that she felt like she needed a support group after she was done reading it. Yes, girl. Yes…

I almost don’t even want to give a synopsis of this book for fear of giving away some of the surprising elements that make the story so special and endearing. Suffice it to say that this is a story about friendship, first love, motherhood, loss, justice, redemption, forgiveness, guilt, shame, and letting go… all stuffed into 400 pages of literary magic.

Kristin Hannah took me back to my high school days with Night Road, to being carefree. When the most important things were getting asked to the prom, being nominated for homecoming queen, and what colleges you applied to/got into. But we all have to grow up. And the characters in this book had to grow up overnight, the result of a tragedy weeks before graduation. Their lives will never be the same.

I literally devoured this book in 36 hours. I couldn’t put it down. It took so many different directions as the story went on that I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. At one point, I wanted to throw my Nook across the room and scream. At other points I wanted to cry. And speckled in between where moments that made me smile. I don’t know that I’ve ever read a book that took me on a such a ride within a few hundred pages.

This would be a fabulous book for a book club. There are tons of topics to discuss and I’m sure there would be plenty to talk about. I’m honestly still not sure how I would have reacted in many of the situations the main characters found themselves in.

I may need to take a tiny Kristin Hannah break to sober up after this one, but then I’ll be back! Because there are still a pile of her books I cannot wait to read.

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General Fiction (Adult), Mystery, Southern Fiction, Thriller

Paper Gods by Goldie Taylor

Paper Gods: A Novel of Money, Race, and PoliticsPaper Gods: A Novel of Money, Race, and Politics by Goldie Taylor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me just start with a thank you to St. Martin’s Press for this surprise I found on my doorstep recently. After opening the package (book mail is the best!), I immediately added it to my stack.

The first thing that intrigued me about this book was the gorgeous cover. The Atlanta skyline at night is the perfect backdrop for this political thriller set in Atlanta. And this book is very “Atlanta.”  From the geographic descriptions to the narration to the discussions of race, I could feel the Atlanta vibe from start to finish.

The book begins with a bang when a prominent Georgia congressman is murdered. What follows is a twisted web of corruption sprinkled with money, power, and more murder as Victoria Dobbs, the mayor of Atlanta, announces her plan to run for the now-open seat.

I haven’t read an overtly political book in a long time and I really enjoyed it. Goldie Taylor really hit the nail on the head with her descriptions of the election process and the stress and pressure of the campaign. I really enjoyed the look into the corrupt world of politics and the attitude that some will do anything in their power to win.

Goldie Taylor’s writing was wonderful. She was extremely descriptive and thorough in her prose, and I enjoyed the character dialogue as well. It is definitely one of those books that requires all of your attention though so wasn’t necessarily a quick read for me. I needed some time to process the complicated relationships and events throughout to make sure I really understood what was going on. If you zone out for just a minute, you will be lost.

I did feel in the beginning that there were maybe a tad too many characters and was having a hard time keeping everybody straight, but by the end it cleared up. And while the book itself was a page turner for me, I found the ending to be a tad underwhelming and perhaps even a bit predictable. While there were a few twists along the way, I still found myself waiting for a big, surprising reveal, and it just didn’t happen. But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the story. I still found it entertaining overall and would recommend to anybody who enjoys political thrillers or wants to read a book solidly rooted in Atlanta.

-I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Goldie Taylor and St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to review.-

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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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