General Fiction (Adult)

The Farm by Joanne Ramos

The FarmThe Farm by Joanne Ramos

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

I have such mixed emotions writing this review. I keep wavering between 3 stars and 4 stars and finding it really difficult to land on a rating. Even 3.5 stars doesn’t feel quite right.

The first 80% of this book was a solid 4 stars. It had the makings and potential of a show stopper, with a really unique concept. The idea of women being hired as surrogates and living together contractually at a remote establishment was something completely original. The women bond together over their experiences, their fears, their excitement, their frustration with the facility. And the story was written with what felt like this sinister underlying tone, which left me as the reader waiting for some crazy twist or reveal.

Unfortunately, the weird and suspicious stuff that the author alluded to didn’t end up coming to fruition and the story took a completely different turn than what I was expecting. This was where things started to unravel and I didn’t end up loving the ending. I felt like there were lots of questions left unanswered and the epilogue tried to tie everything together with a neat bow, but it ended up feeling forced and unrealistic in my opinion. And at that point, it started feeling more like a 3 star read for me.

So overall, I really loved the concept and enjoyed the main characters. I appreciated the multiple perspectives, and thought that format worked for this type of story. And there was so many great things happening and so much potential. But when all was said and done, it kind of flopped in the end.

I would still recommend this to many women. Joanne Ramos hits on some interesting content surrounding race and class which was thought provoking. And the topic of surrogacy… where the line is drawn between a surrogate making decisions that affect their body versus the client making decisions that affect their growing fetus… lots to consider here as well. I would read Joanne Ramos’s work in the future.

-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Joanne Ramos, and Random House Publishing for the opportunity to review.-

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Audiobook Review, Mystery, Thriller

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

The Broken GirlsThe Broken Girls by Simone St. James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Broken Girls was one of the first books I received from my Book of the Month subscription. And I finally just got around to reading it (make that, listening… because I actually ended up renting the audiobook from the library despite having the book in print).

So many people have adored this book, raved about it on social media, and recommended it as a fantastic mystery/thriller. So I was very excited to dive in and see what all the fuss was about.

And while I really enjoyed it, I did feel like it didn’t fully meet my very high expectations.

There are multiple stories going on here, some in the present and some in the past. In the past, a girl goes missing at a remote boarding school for troubled girls called Idlewild Hall. And there are rumors of a ghost haunting the grounds. In the present, a journalist is hung up on the death of her sister, her body found on the desolate, abandoned grounds of Idlewild Hall.

There are several different mysteries and a lot of separate story lines to sort through. And I was all in for the first 75% of the book. Like completely engrossed and couldn’t put it down. But unfortunately, I felt like the ending was a tad disjointed and all of the stories didn’t connect for me. I was waiting for some earth shattering moment in the end that answered all the questions, or some magnificent twist that knocked me off my socks. And it just didn’t happen. The ending was fine, and I didn’t dislike the book by any stretch of the imagination. It just didn’t blow me away.

I think I would have preferred to read the book in print rather than listening. It may have been less confusing given the changing timelines that have a heavy presence in the book.

I think many people would thoroughly enjoy this one. Actually, I know they would because the reviews on Goodreads are stellar. So don’t let me review deter you. Read it for yourself. And if you want to wait a while to pick it up, it would make the perfect Halloween read!

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General Fiction (Adult), Thriller

The East End by Jason Allen

The East EndThe East End by Jason Allen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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

What do you picture when you think of a book about The Hamptons? I imagine glamorous parties and sandy beaches and chic fashion. What’s so unique about The East End is that it highlights a completely different view of The Hamptons. It is grungy and gritty and shows the less alluring side of life on the island. But it is real and honest, highlighting the struggles people experience, which I appreciated.

From the Publisher:

After graduating high school, Corey Halpern would love to leave the Hamptons and never look back. He is stuck though, saddled with responsibility for his alcoholic mother, Gina, and his younger brother. So for now, he finds momentary escape by breaking and entering. The night before Memorial Day weekend, he targets the estate of Leo Sheffield, the billionaire CEO for whom he and Gina work. But everything goes awry. Leo arrives suddenly—and he’s not alone. As Corey looks on in stunned horror, he witnesses a fatal mishap…as does another traumatized onlooker. With everything to lose, Leo will do whatever it takes to cover up the truth. Things spiral out of control, however. Pushed to their limits, Corey, Gina, and Leo all hurtle towards climactic showdowns as explosive as the holiday fireworks lighting up the night sky.

What did I really like about this book? As I’ve already mentioned, it showed the struggles people experience in their everyday lives, highlighting vulnerabilities and insecurities. Written from both the perspectives of the rich and glamorous and the poor and working class, I enjoyed the juxtaposition of higher and lower class characters in terms of lifestyle, but seeing how similar their lives were in terms of challenges and personality flaws.

It also had a fantastic hook in the beginning that captured my attention from the start. I wanted to know what would happen next and how the characters would get themselves out of the predicaments they found themselves in.

The things that I struggled with?
1. I felt like there was a lot of redundancy in terms of story line. To be honest, there wasn’t a whole lot of substance but the author managed to stretch out the story across 300 pages. I did feel there were times where the story was continuously rehashed and I ended up losing patience and attention along the way, wishing it would get to the point a little faster.
2. In my opinion, the characters made some awful decisions that didn’t seem super realistic. If they would have just made a different (and more logical) decision in the beginning of the book, everything would have been a lot easier on everybody.
3. I struggled with the “crime” plot holes. Spoiler alert: There would have been a mountain of forensic evidence pointing at all of the main characters, but somehow that wasn’t the case in the end. I found that portion of a story a tad hard to believe.

Overall, although there were some elements that I didn’t care for, I enjoyed Jason Allen’s writing and appreciated the premise of The East End. If you’re looking for a book depicting realistic characters who attempt to overcome their flaws and struggles, this is the book for you.

-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Jason Allen, and Park Row Books for the opportunity to review.-

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Audiobook Review, Memoir/Biography, Nonfiction

Becoming by Michelle Obama

BecomingBecoming by Michelle Obama

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How do I even begin to do this book justice with a review? I honestly don’t think I can. I have so many thoughts and feelings after finishing Becoming that I don’t think a simple review will accomplish everything I’d like to say. But here is my best shot.

Let me first start by saying that I don’t want this review to be a study in political ideology. But that being said, I feel like I need to give you some perspective so you can understand truly how special this book really is. Politically, I fall somewhere in the middle. I see both sides of many issues. My opinions are fairly split and I try to keep an open mind at all times. But when it comes to voting, I generally tend to lean to the right. I did not vote for Barack Obama in the 2008 or 2012 elections. So why am I reading a book authored by his wife?

Because our country is entirely too divided. And because if we continue to only tune into the news and dialogue that fits our political ideology, we will never close the ever-expanding gap.

Somebody told me once, “You shouldn’t listen to respond. You should listen to understand.” And that phrase has really stuck with me. It’s fairly often that I catch myself preparing my rebuttal when somebody is speaking, not really processing the words that they’re saying. And I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to rectify that tendency.

So here I am, listening to an audiobook written by Michelle Obama with every intention of understanding her life through her eyes and experience. And can I just say that it was phenomenal!

Like her or not, you can’t deny that she has led an incredible life. From growing up on the South Side of Chicago to attending Princeton and Harvard and eventually becoming First Lady of the United States, her journey has been astounding. But outside of her accomplishments, I really resonated with this book because of how real she felt as a human being.

Michelle talked about her struggles with fertility and experience with IVF to conceive her two daughters. She talked about grappling with how to approach parenting her children in the eye of the public. How she should balance allowing them the freedom to be children with the potential threats to their lives that required extensive security details. She talked about her work surrounding childhood obesity and how she advocated for healthier food options for school lunch, regular daily exercise for all children, and a garden on the White House lawn to grow fresh produce. She discussed her insecurities. As a highly educated and intelligent lawyer who graduated from two Ivy League institutions, it was difficult for her to accept comments from the public that she only got where she is today because of the success of her husband. She talks about the challenges of being African American in the US and how that has impacted her journey through life. I truly believe that her ability to relate to the everyday woman is the reason this book has become the success it is today. Any woman can see themselves in Michelle’s story and can relate to at least a portion of her life.

Do I think there is an element of bias in this book? It’s an autobiography told from one person’s perspective. Of course there is going to be bias! If I wrote a book about myself, I’m sure there are people who wouldn’t agree with my account of history. So if you are going into this book with a closed mind and less-than-flattering preconceived notions about the Obama administration, you likely won’t enjoy some of the commentary. But, only when we open our minds to understand the perspective of others can we really move forward together.

If you’re questioning whether you should read this book or listen to it, I would highly recommend audiobook. Michelle narrates the story herself and let me tell you… she could be a professional audiobook narrator. I was mesmerized. She truly captivated my attention from start to finish. And at a little shy of 19 hours, it’s quite impressive that my mind did not drift off for one second.

I could seriously go on and on about this book. There is so much to talk about. So many layers to dissect. I would highly recommend Becoming as a book club read because of the plethora of content from which to draw discussion. It could probably be discussed over the course of several separate book club meetings to be honest.

I can’t recommend this book enough. And I wish I could do it justice with this review. I hope I’ve come close and perhaps convinced at least one person to read it (in addition to my husband, who I’ve already persuaded).

You should purchase from Amazon right now and you can do it right here!

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Mystery, Thriller

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

The Mother-in-LawThe Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Out April 23rd! Preorder from Amazon here.

This book is being put in the mystery/thriller genre, but while it does have an element of mystery, I would consider it more of a domestic drama. It was definitely more of a slow burn than a full blow edge-of-your-seat thriller. And it was also very good.

Talk about a study in perspective and miscommunication. Lucy and her mother-in-law, Diana, are a walking, talking example of how differing personalities and communication styles can drastically affect relationships between people when the parties involved aren’t on the same page. I was addicted to their stories and how they tried to navigate the sometimes challenging daughter-in-law-mother-in-law relationship. It’s particularly difficult with Diana because of her strong opinions and unyielding moral values, which can at times cause rifts throughout the entire family.

And when Diana is found dead, the question becomes… did Diana commit suicide or did somebody have motive to kill?

Sally Hepworth’s writing was wonderfully executed, keeping my interest the entire time. I am usually a fan of books with relatively short chapters because I tend to be more inclined to keep reading when a chapter ends, flying right through the book from cover to cover. And this book was no exception. Flipping between time periods, past and present, can often be challenging to accomplish without causing confusion for the reader, but in this case was absolutely essential to the storytelling. I also enjoyed the “past of the past” timeline that took place even earlier in time and how that tied into the overall story.

Overall, I enjoyed this one very much and would recommend to those who typically enjoy domestic dramas with a pinch of mystery.

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

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