General Fiction (Adult), Historical Fiction

Bethlehem by Karen Kelly

BethlehemBethlehem by Karen Kelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Out July 9th! Pre-order from Amazon here!

Bravo to my fellow Vanderbilt graduate, Karen Kelly, on a beautifully written novel!

This one is a sweeping family drama that takes place over several generations. In this way, it reminded me of Kate Morton’s The Clockmaker’s Daughter or Sarah Blake’s The Guest Book, both of which I adored. So I’m happy to be able to add Bethlehem to these incredible titles.

A woman and her family move into her husband’s family home to watch over his mother and grandmother after his father passes away. And family secrets will be revealed as the past is uncovered. I’m hesitant to give any more of a synopsis because you need to read this one for yourself to appreciate Karen Kelly’s storytelling.

The one thing that was a tad difficult for me was getting all of the names and relationships straight for the first 20% or so of the book. But, there is a really nice family tree drawn in the front of the book that helped me get everything straight. Once I had a handle on the family relationships and dynamics, it was smooth sailing the rest of the book.

I would highly recommend if you tend to like sweeping family dramas!

-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Karen Kelly, and St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to review.-

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Audiobook Review, General Fiction (Adult), Humor, Mystery

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Where'd You Go, BernadetteWhere’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I’m a little bit late to the party on this one since it published in 2012 but I’ve been wanting to read it for a while so I was excited when I was able to get ahold of it from the library.

If you’re looking for something fun, quirky, unique, different, and in its own wheelhouse, Where’d You Go, Bernadette is the perfect choice.

Bernadette’s daughter Bee wants to go on a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette is still adjusting to living the life she never wanted in Seattle, Washington and may be on the verge of a mental breakdown. And when Bernadette disappears, Bee is forced to weave together clues to where her mother has gone.

Told in the form of emails, letters, memos, transcripts, the format was ultimately the best and worst thing about this book. I am always a sucker for authors who write in a unique format other than strictly prose. I love the level of creativity. And I think I would have enjoyed this book’s format a lot more if I had read it rather than listened to the audio. Because on audio it did become a tad hard to follow.

But, that being said, the narrator, Kathleen Wilhoite, was one of the most fabulous narrators I’ve ever heard. She totally did the characters justice in voice, personality, and spirit. So even though the format made the audio version challenging, the narrator made up for it in storytelling.

At times, I did struggle to understand how all the pieces of the story fit together and flowed. And while it did come together in the end, there were portions of the book where I found myself zoning out because I wasn’t quite sure what was going on. That being said, I think if I were to read it again, I would probably appreciate it much more than the first time around.

Ultimately, although my numeric rating is on the lower side, I would still highly recommend reading this book just for the experience. It’s a gem.

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Audiobook Review, General Fiction (Adult)

Drawing Home by Jamie Brenner

Drawing HomeDrawing Home by Jamie Brenner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jamie Brenner never fails to deliver a fabulous summer read perfect for poolside lounging. Last year I read her book The Husband Hour and adored it. When I saw early praise for Drawing Home was super excited to read it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get an advanced copy for review but I put myself immediately on the library’s waitlist for the audiobook once it published.

When a prestigious and rich artist suddenly passes away in a small town and leaves all his assets to a young girl to whom he’d been giving drawing lessons, everybody is confused. Her mom. His long time friend. And when the young girl’s absentee father shows up after years of neglect, everybody is suspicious of his motives. Drawning Home is a complex look at family dynamics with a small town summer feel.

I enjoyed the mystery surrounding the inheritance and why it was bestowed on the young girl. I kept trying to guess why the artist would have given her such a substantial gift upon his death, and I’ll tell you right now that I guessed wrong.

The multiple characters’ story lines kept the story interesting and the relationships they all developed to each other was probably my favorite part of the book.

I don’t think I liked this one quite as much as The Husband Hour. Not that there was anything wrong with this story, I just really adored the former. If you’re looking for a great beach read, Jamie Brenner is usually a safe bet. I would highly recommend this one.

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Audiobook Review, General Fiction (Adult), Reese Witherspoon's Book Club

The Cactus by Sarah Haywood

The CactusThe Cactus by Sarah Haywood

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

June 2019’s Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick!

I always love a good Reese pick, so I was excited to get my hands on The Cactus so quickly from the library this month.

It’s tough to say what this book is about. It is so reminiscent of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine that I was mildly distracted by the similarities. There is a woman who is a little uptight and quirky who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. Having never thought she would have children, she begins this adventure of discovery in her own quirky way. And she may find love along the way as well.

I think I enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant as a character a bit more than the main character from this book. And I didn’t enjoy the subject matter quite as much here either. Overall, it was just okay for me. It was a perfectly fine book but didn’t wow me.

That being said, I’m not a huge fan of these quirky characters that seem to be on trend right now so I’m probably not the best audience for this book. If you absolutely loved Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine or even , you would probably enjoy this one.

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General Fiction (Adult)

The Favorite Daughter by Patti Callahan Henry

The Favorite DaughterThe Favorite Daughter by Patti Callahan Henry

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I was so excited to win The Favorite Daughter in a Goodreads giveaway. I have been swamped with ARCs that I’ve requested lately, which always trump my reading schedule so I wasn’t able to get to this one before June 4th when it published. But better late than never!

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Lena is getting married to Walter. She wants a small wedding, but her family insists that she must have a huge celebration. So she allows her sister Hallie to plan the wedding for her. On the morning of the wedding Hallie is nowhere to be found, until Lena finds her behind Door #1 making out with… Walter (i.e. the-groom-to-be). Lena is obviously devastated and runs away to New York City to mend her broken heart and escape the utter humiliation. Fast forward 10 years later and Lena must return home to take care of her father who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. Which means she must face Hallie (who is now married to Walter) and a past she wishes she could forget.

This book is entirely about memories. Lena’s father is devastated at the thought of losing his memories. Meanwhile, Lena wishes she could forget. There is a nice juxtaposition here that I enjoyed. Patti Callahan Henry’s writing transported me to the Carolinas and I felt like I was in the small family town, sitting at the Irish pub, interacting with the locals. I could envision it all.

The story wasn’t anything crazy. It is the simple story of a complicated family. But it was written so beautifully that I couldn’t put it down. I empathized with the main character. I could feel her anger and her struggle with letting go. I could feel her turn herself off to the world and retreat into her protective shell.

I enjoyed the surprises we learned along the way, the author slowly revealing the Donohue family secrets. And I enjoyed the overall message this book is trying to send to its readers about love, loss, and forgiveness. This is a really solid family drama that I would highly recommend.

I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Goodreads, Patti Callahan Henry, and Berkley Publishing for the opportunity to review.

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