Reviews

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

This book has broken me and you must read it too. You must. 🐝 🍯 Nuri and Afra, a beekeeper and an artist, a couple on a treacherous journey seeking asylum from Syria. Yet refugees don’t just escape a place, they must also escape a thousand horrific memories. The Beekeeper of Aleppo is relevant and modern, a story of unspeakable loss, unimaginable horrors, and immense human spirit. Powerful and resonant. It will change you. It is authentic and unforgettable and I urge you to read it. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5
“…and yet it held a beauty that was mesmerizing and indescribable, like an image in a dream, like a picture of a world that is beyond our imagination.”

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟REVIEW:
“There is the crime and there is the silence.” This quote repeats through every narrative and echoes across generations and probably will surface in your life too, if you are willing to reflect. It was my August #bookbarct book group title and it provided an endless source of discussion and debate (and a perfect reason to whip up a pitcher of G&T’s.) We agreed it was difficult to like many of the characters because of their behaviors and allegiances but that is perhaps the point. Blake’s prose is illuminating, entirely transportive, and morally compelling. Powerful and provoking, this is a tragic story of a family (and a country) that buries the past in whispers, until the present beckons a reckoning. The three generations of the Milton family will stay with you long after the last page. I highly recommend you read this one—it earns five stars from me.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

When she tells you that grilled cheese is her spirit animal you just know she’s your ride or die! Nina really needs no intro because she’s been all over #bookstagram lately but if you haven’t yet met my new bibliophile BFF, you should! Everyone has a different set of five perfect things. Here are Nina’s. What are yours?
🧡books
🧡cats
🧡dogs
🧡honeycrisp apples
🧡coffee
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️The Bookish Life of Nina Hill is a lighthearted funny story, super cute, and perfect for a plane ride (you could finish it in one 3 hour leg plus there is no ugly cry potential.) All my bookish friends will agree that Nina is an OG book gang member and I’d welcome her to my book club any day!

A Place for Us by Fatima Mirza

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 What is the last book that made you weep?
This one is a heartbreaker. By part 4, I couldn’t see the words on the page through my tears. A Place for Us is a story about compassion, identity and belonging. With multiple narratives sweeping across timelines, readers will witness an Indian-American Muslim family in CA as it fights and fractures. It is masterfully written, fiercely original, polished and quite simply—STUNNING. All the stars for this perfect book group selection. You won’t believe it is @ffmirza ‘s debut! 💫“How were they to know the moments that would define them?”

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

Huge book hangover! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5 This is the only #BOTM title I’ve read in the same month that it shipped. It is entirely compelling, utterly engrossing, and you will feel you’ve lived a lifetime by the last page. If you are eager for a book to both devastate you and restore your faith in humanity you need to pick up Ask Again, Yes ASAP. Everyone who voted for it as the #jimmyfallonbookclub gets a high five 🙌🏻 from me! I read this gem by @marybethkeane TEN weeks ago and I am still thinking about Kate and Peter, a young couple whose families are interlocked and destroyed by a tragedy. Mental illness, addiction and loneliness play a central role, but so do loyalty, love and forgiveness. The story spans 4 decades but never drags. You may have to wait a bit, but every stone is eventually turned over and the intricacies of family and relationships are revealed. It is raw and emotionally draining and I cannot stop recommending it!

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger

Compulsively readable. ✨ Addictively entertaining. I inhaled it in one day. The Gifted School story unfolds in Colorado but I can easily imagine it set in my CT suburb. ✨“A previously happy group of friends and parents is nearly destroyed by their own competitiveness when an exclusive school for gifted children opens in their community.“ ✨Pressures, parenting, privilege, and the pursuit of prestige—it‘s all in here. If you are honest with yourself, you may recognize a reflection of your life in these pages. Cracks, fissures and fault lines: competition is destructive. A quick read full of drama, resentments, sharp observations, and relatable stressors. ✨

The Girl He Used to Know by Tracy Garvis Graves

“If there was one thing I loved almost as much as animals, it was books. Reading transported me to exotic locales, fascinating periods in history, and worlds that were vastly different from my own.” 💛There are many reasons to love Annika (rhymes with Monica) but our shared bibliophile tendencies are at the top of the list. 💛Apparently I’m falling for romantic novels as of late…this one is both tumultuous and tender, sweet but not saccharine. 💛The tragedy they encounter will send you reeling and heightens your compassion for this couple. You will be rooting for them! 💛This book should be on your summer reading list. 

The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs

Read this to understand your breast cancer warrior pals. 💗#thebrighthour is a meditation on life while anticipating its end, on family, and on loving all your days not just the easy loveable ones. It explodes with life and vibrancy, with poetic lines that demand an instant reread. 💗Yes, it’s heartbreaking. Yes, you’ll cry. Read it anyway. Scared to do that alone? Read it with your #bookgrouppals This is one of those unforgettable and life-changing books, beautiful and haunting and full of humanity. 💗

Slay Like a Mother by Katherine Wintsch

Motherhood is hard. 🐲 It’s exhausting, overwhelming and sometimes feels impossible. It’s okay to admit it. Wintsch‘s book #slaylikeamother delivers the antidote for imperfect moms who feel like they never measure up, fall short, and aren’t doing enough. This book is a must read for every woman, not just moms. It’s an emboldened guidebook that provides tools to slay your inner dragon. Cut the self-doubt, perfectionism, and fear. They are not your friends. Instead, invite confidence, compassion and joy to the table and see what happens. Here are some of my favorite of her mantras:🐲The struggle is real. Your suffering is optional. 🐲If you despise “perfect” mothers, then stop trying to be the bitch you hate. 🐲When you give away your free time, you believe others deserve it more than you. 🐲Let nothing stand in the way of standing up for yourself. 🐲Inner peace isn’t the absence of struggle, but the ability to deal with it. Visit http://www.slaylikeamother.com for more inspiration! 

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

Mistakes. Forgiveness. Hope. 💞 I could not put it down. Mrs. Everything is perhaps Weiner’s most sophisticated and flawless novel yet. 💞Motherhood, sisterhood, women’s lib, gender roles, self discovery, tragedy, and loss…a multigenerational story that transports you from the 1950’s to today. (For fellow CT neighbors: it was especially fun to guess the Hartford area spots referenced since Weiner grew up in the Farmington Valley.) 💞I highly recommend this for you if you’re looking for a summer read with depth, substance and ambition. 

Normal People by Sally Rooney

This is a 5⭐️read for me! You’ll either feel a relatable anxious connection to these perfectly flawed characters or you won’t and you’ll launch the book across the room and curse them in irritation.⭐️ I loved Normal People in a miserable way, Marianne and Connell’s vulnerabilities and angst made me hold them tight and love them more. ⭐️Rooney addresses the nuances of class, depths of mental health, familial complexities, and domestic abuse. ⭐️The characters are magnetically drawn to each other, they connect but fail to communicate, so theirs is a dysfunctional relationship. This can frustrate a reader but also elevates your level of concern and empathy. I’ve still got them on my mind! ⭐️This is a difficult one to universally recommend but I do hope you’ll take a chance on Normal People and make your own conclusions. If you’ve read it I’m very interested in your thoughts! Eager to get the chance to discuss it with a book group in June. Thank you to the tagged publisher for my free copy! 🥳 

I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

You’d be surprised how alive you feel while reading about death.
♥️My book groups just read this truly engrossing memoir highlighting the author’s 17 brushes with death. Our conversations were fascinating! Surprisingly, we discovered many of us share some of her experiences. ♥️I Am, I Am, I Am reads like a thriller at times, offering both harrowing/ relatable and devastating/ unimaginable scenarios. ♥️Chapters are presented not in chronological order, but rather by the body parts/systems that are at risk. Such a unique approach! Some of us agreed that a few of the “brushes” didn’t really qualify as particularly deadly, but you can read it decide for yourself. A must read!

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne

🌟REVIEW🌟Have you ever loved a book yet intensely despised the main character? No? Here you go.
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🍉A juicy psychodrama, it is perfectly unputdownable. Maurice Swift is a hopeless writer, lacking imagination and storytelling talent but that doesn’t slow him down in his relentless pursuit of literary fame. In fact, “would be writers can find stories anywhere, they don’t need to be his own.” His deceit and manipulation will astonish you and you won’t see the end coming. .
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🍉A Ladder to the Sky is an excellent book group selection, you’ll definitely want to talk about it when you finish. .
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🍉@johnboyne is a brilliant, supremely masterful must read author about whom I’ve raved endlessly since devouring #theheartsinvisiblefuries in 2017. If you haven’t read that one yet either then double down on both this summer. You won’t regret it! 🌟🌟🌟🌟/5 

My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

This is a perfect noir comedy. 🔪💚A tale of two Nigerian sisters—the gorgeous one a femme fatale murderess, the practical one a bleach sorceress who erases the messes. 💚My Sister, the Serial Killer is a thriller of the light, breezy and entertaining variety. I read it in one sitting. 💚What worked for me was the humor in the narrative, brief chapters, the contemporary storyline, and the killer cover art. 💚 Braithwaite addresses issues like domestic abuse, sibling rivalry, the pressure of secrets, and the depths of family loyalty. 💚Pairs well with a Pinot noir and a hammock.

Sing, Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward

This is a road trip AND a ghost story. ❣️ It is more than a book, it is literature. Ward’s prose is powerful, precise and searing. ❣️Hers is a necessary voice in contemporary literature, conveying the essence of the poor rural black South through familial bonds and community ties. ❣️It was my pleasure to see her receive the 2019 Mark Twain American Voice In Literature Award last night. ❣️Wow, she is a remarkable woman…this is her second National Book Award title, making her the first female and first author of color to achieve this distinction. ❣️Read her work, it will change you and challenge you. 

I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott

Joy is bigger than fear. Sometimes doing things wrong is part of getting LIFE right. I loved this memoir in essays 📝 —I Miss You When I Blink by @marylauraphilpottHave you read it yet? 😉I love this phrase #imissyouwheniblink and all it’s possible love poem recipients: your kids, a lover, your sanity, your childhood, cake. 😉This collection of missives is like a little pep talk from your bestie when the ugly cry is looming but you need a giant laugh. 😉It’s riotously funny, relatable, and honest—belongs on your shelf next to Nora Ephron. 

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

Where are my mythology fans! 🙋🏻‍♀️ This was unputdownable. Meet Breisis—queen turned concubine during the Trojan War. This is her story. Once Queen of a kingdom, she becomes a prize of battle as Achilles defeats her army, kills her family and enslaves all the women. Silence of the Girls gives a powerful voice to the captured women of the legendary story, The Iliad. A behind the scenes view of the enslaved women of the war—slaves, nurses, prostitutes, undertakers—breathtaking and brutal. I recommend you read Song of Achilles by @madeline.e.miller first, then #thesilenceofthegirls by Pat Barker so you hear the male then female perspectives. I found this one to be simply magnificent! Thanks @bookofthemonth for offering this extraordinary title last year.

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. This is an addictive story, with beautifully broken characters, and one liners that drop the mic…this one is truly worthy of all the hype. I’m recommending it to everyone. Equally perfect as a beach read and a book group pick. Reid has used a sophisticated narrative, an interview with a journalist, for the entire novel and I’ll admit it’s a pleasant surprise…I dig it. After a dozen unwon giveaways I finally hooked up with Daisy thanks to my Book of the Month subscription. Like true rockstars, we went on an East Coast tour and she was a totally groovy travel companion. I now want to wear gold bangles up to my elbows and burn my bra.

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

I’m often asked “what makes a good book group book?” Controversy. Here’s one loaded with it. Silver Sparrow was my #bookbarct book group selection for March and we had best conversations! Are you in an IRL book group? How do you choose your books?
Here’s the opening line: “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist.” 😳This powerful and complex story about deception, complicity, and relationships is explosive—only the secret sister knows the other family exists. When the two sisters become friends, they paths are destined for an epic collision course. Is knowledge power? Are some secrets never meant to be kept? Highly recommend, read it and then discuss it with someone—your book group, a book buddy, or ME!

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

What a racy little romp! 💓🔥 There’s a reason The Kiss Quotient won best romance on #goodreads !!! It’s a gender flip Pretty Woman situation that instantly gets your attention. Heartfelt + witty + quirky + STEAMY = a fantastic love equation for an entertaining romance novel. Stella Lane struggles with relationships, she has Asperger’s and seeks professional help—from a male escort. 🔥🔥🔥 Plot and pulse quickens, I read this in 3 hours! Not my typical fare, but I’ll reconsider dating this genre because it was a thoroughly enjoyable read! I’m already looking forward to sequel, The Bride Test, in May.

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

If historical fiction is your jam, or you want to know more about the WWII US internment camps, or you’ve known someone who has struggled with Alzheimer’s, this book will deliver. Meissner’s elegant prose and historical details offer insight into the fear, pain, and hatred American-born children of immigrant parents experienced during WWII. You’ll ask yourself what makes you an American and who determines your identity? This book offers a little known perspective from the war and it is harrowing, heartbreaking and entirely human. Elise Sontag, a German-American teenager in Iowa in 1943 struggles with her family’s internment at a TX camp because her father is a suspected Nazi sympathizer (despite being an American citizen for decades.) She bonds immediately with a Japanese-American girl at the camp but then life cartwheels again when both girls’ families are exchanged for American prisoners behind enemy lines back to their parents’ native countries. Life in war torn Germany is harrowing, devastating, and everything they never imagined.
Highly recommend this title for fans of The Lilac Girls, The Nightingale, The Beantown Girls, and The Paris Architect.

The Map of Salt & Stars 
by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar

February book group pick! 🗺 🌊 ✨All 4 of my #bookbarct groups are reading this dazzling novel right now. I think you should read it too! 
@jenniferzeynab ‘s prose is lyrical, vivid and urgent. This is a story of two girls, one a medieval apprentice to a legendary mapmaker, the other a contemporary Syrian refugee, journeying an identical path through the Middle East and Africa separated by 800 years. Positively pulsing with humanity and heroism. 💙💙💙

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

I’m so embarrassed. 😬 I almost let negative reviews persuade me to find fault with this one. How silly of me! 🌿
I’ve loved Barbara Kingsolver since the Poisonwood Bible and have enjoyed most of her other books. She nailed it again. 🌿
Unsheltered is beautifully executed. Kingsolver has delivered yet another remarkable novel, meticulously crafted and deliberate. I loved the dual timeline, the weaving of the chapter titles, and entirely compassionate character drawings. 🌿
Her background in biology shone through here. Yes, she gets a bit political and that may deter some. But she handles controversy, struggle, grief and scandal expertly. Shelter comes in many forms: a house, a relationship, a family, a reputation, a job. Please let Kingsolver W🤩W you again with her masterful storytelling. 🌿“Unsheltered, I live in daylight.” 

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

“There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot.” ❤️🐚🦐
While it’s only my 5th book of this year, I predict Crawdads will remain in my top 10 of 2019. If it is on your list too, I urge you to move it to the top now. Go ahead, I’ll wait 😁. If you’ve never heard of it, please trust me, you need this story in your life. 
Who else loved it? I smelled the marsh, felt the mosquitoes bite, tasted the grits, lived in her shack, steered her boat, fell in love and had my heart broken alongside Kya. This one is big on wow. 

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

“Memory is a queer creature, an eccentric curator.” —Celestial. 
Read that twice, indeed it rings true. I inhaled An American Marriage and urge you to move it to the top of your list. Yes the story is about marriage, but more deeply it is about fatherhood, race, class and our criminal justice system. Timely, intimate and unforgettable, this story will change you. 
@tayari I will follow you anywhere. It’s a perfect #bookclub book, for you will converse with conviction and heart!

The Beantown Girls by Jane Healey

A trio of American girlfriends who volunteer with the Red Cross during WWII will win your heart in the newest novel by Jane Healey. Historical fiction is my favorite genre and I was instantly intrigued by this widely unknown aspect of these women who served at the front lines in Germany. Viv, Dottie and Fiona are the Beantown Girls, friends from Boston who have various reasons for coming to the front. They apply to be Red Cross Clubmobile girls, sometimes nicknamed Donut Dollies, to serve coffee and donuts while playing records, boosting morale and chatting up the servicemen. They were selected based on their strong character and good looks, not really knowing how much courage and sacrifice was required of them. The trio encounter tremendous dangers as they move closer to the front lines, even earning Bronze Stars for their service. Through it all they forge new friendships, discover budding romances, grieve and console one another, navigate their futures and set new dreams. For fans of Lilac Girls, The Nightingale, and The Alice Network, you’ll love this heartwarming story and memorable characters! Thanks to @netgalley and @lakeunionpublishing for my free copy in exchange for my honest review. Pub date: 2/5/19

The Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly

This is a must read! The Lost Roses is the prequel to the Lilac Girls, and is as stunning and bold as its big sister. Set before WWI in Russia and then Paris, we meet American Eliza Ferriday (Caroline’s mother), Russian cousin to the Tsar, Sofya, and Russian villager turned servant, Varinka. Their stories are woven together seamlessly, characters are well drawn and the cadence makes your heart pound. You will suffer these courageous women’s hardships and heartbreaks and celebrate their survival and joys. It is not a requirement to read Lilac Girls first, but that is such a spectacular novel that you’ll want to add it to your list too. I highly recommend Lost Roses to fans of historical fiction, especially Russian history. I’ll be visiting the Bellamy Ferriday house in CT this spring to enhance the reading experience. Thank you to @netgalley and @ballantinebooks for my free copy in exchange for my honest review. Pub date: 4/9/19

The Dreamers by Karen Walker

I guarantee you won’t 😴 while reading this dystopian novel about a sleeping virus that triggers an epidemic. If you loved Station Eleven, The Dreamers is your brand of thriller. I could not put it down. I honestly suffered a bout of insomnia for the single overnight endured between my start and finish. Walker’s lyrical prose evoked a buoyant feeling, almost like floating on water or drifting off in slumber. The overlap of the ordinary (sleep) and extraordinary (dreams) was mesmerizing. Imagination and fear are contagious elements for the reader, she harnessed these beautifully. Multiple relatable character perspectives (young love, parenthood, marriage), enough science to lend credibility, and a wildly possible medical pandemic elevated both my interest and my blood pressure. I did wish the ending provided more resolution, felt there were several outstanding loose ends that readers will want closure on. Pick this up next week, publication day is 1/15/19! Would fuel a book group conversation for hours. 3.5/5 stars Thank you to @netgalley and @randomhouse for my free copy in exchange for this honest review. #thedreamers #netgalley #sleeptodream #epidemic #dystopianbooks #thrillerbooks #readwithme #bookbarct #bookgroup #wakeup #dreamscape #contagion #stationeleven

The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah

I’m grapeful 🍇 to @thebookclubcookbook for my copy of The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah! C’est magnifique! 👌🏻 🍇
Immensely heartfelt, this is a fascinating historical fiction novel that builds in suspense and emotion. I particularly enjoyed the dual timeline narratives. 🍇
You’ll learn loads about Burgundy wine, the German occupation of France, the blurred lines of resistance and collaboration, and the human spirit in the face of unspeakable truths. 🍇
Really a remarkable read! Drink it up this weekend. Excellent pick for your book club! 

The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclean Weir

💠Fast. Furious. Fantastic.💠Unbelievably timely, The Book of Essie presents fame, faith, family and a secret that will explode a perfectly poised empire. Essie is courageous and inspiring and you’ll find the relationship between her and Rourke grow from tentative to trusting. I loved this electrifying story! Add it to your #tbr ! It’s definitely appropriate to share with your teen too. PS yes I was distracted by the hologram glitter title more than once…okay, every time I picked it up. ☺️

Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest by Lauren McDuffie

Now I’m starving! When this cookbook is published in May, buy two copies–one to give and one to keep. Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest highlights cooking the way it should be, inspiring not tiring. McDuffie’s dedication says it all, “For you Mom, you were right all along.” I’m in! This is a book that leads you home. The compilation reads like the jackpot of regional Appalachian family recipes, passed down through generations. Organized by season, each menu boasts a story and a unique title like ‘Kentucky Rain’ and ‘Forest Walk’ and ‘Harvest & Honey.’ Her photography is arrestingly artistic and alluring, a strong light and shadow game play on linens, flowers and dishes, you’ll want to roll up your sleeves and get to it. I could listen to her storytelling for hours, she draws you in, skips along memories, and offers comfort (hello to the entire chapter based on grandma Nora’s classics.) A few recipes that immediately caught my attention: Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream, Drunken Short Ribs, Winter Spiced Morning Rolls, Coconut Vanilla Bean Jam, Succotash Crostini, and Hummingbird Pancakes with Roasted Banana Cream Rounded out with a wine pairing guide and two entire chapters on Moonshine and Bourbon, this compendium will also quench your thirst. I loved eating, I mean reading, this gorgeous cookbook! Thanks to @netgalley and @chroniclebooks for my free digital copy!

Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

“War always seemed distant from Bogotá…until it sat embroiling everything around us.” 🧡Read this one for a powerful immersion in Colombian culture and landscape. The writing is simply gorgeous, both jagged and luminous. I loved this story! 🧡Contreras offers a deeply moving story of girlhood and class, power and possession, love and conflict. 🧡Fans of Allende, Marquez and Alvarez will thoroughly enjoy The Fruit of the Drunken Tree. 🧡Have you met Chula and Petrona yet? #fruitofthedrunkentree#partner#arc

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Add Johanna and Captain Kidd to the list of the Wild West’s great odd couples. ⭐️A grizzly old man who’s outlived his usefulness, and a lost girl with no place to call home…their journey is punctuated with anguish and fear, their story told with humanity and compassion. ⭐️News of the World is a Western read as iconic as it’s landscape. ⭐️Weighing in at just 209 pages, I think you should take this adventurous ride through Texas to find your place in this world. ⭐️

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