Book Review: Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

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Title: Nine Perfect Strangers
Author: Liane Moriarty
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publish Date: November 6, 2018
Genre: Contemporary
Goodreads Ratings: Me 4.0 / Community 3.66

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Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?

It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.

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Nine people attend a health resort. Each person is looking for change in their life, but Tranquillum House’s unorthodox practices are not what the guests were expecting. As their stay progresses, the guests get to know each other a little better, and they are all skeptical of the eccentric owner of Tranquillum House.

This book has a lot of characters – nine guests plus three resort staff. Multiple viewpoints is a tricky thing, and I’m usually wary of this type of book. With twelve POVs, I really wasn’t sure about this one. However, I’m happy to say that it is easy to distinguish the characters from one another and follow the story.

Each of the characters is interesting in some way. The guests are Frances, Ben, Jessica, Lars, Tony, Carmel, Napoleon, Heather, and Zoe. Frances is a writer looking to reboot her life after a downturn in both her professional and private lives. Ben and Jessica are a young, wealthy couple who are having marital problems. Lars is a divorce attorney and an avid visitor of health resorts. Tony is a former athlete looking to lose weight. Carmel is a single working mother with low self esteem. Napoleon, Heather, and Zoe are a family (father, mother, and daughter) dealing with a tragic family loss. The resort staff includes Masha, Yao, and Delilah. Masha is the owner and director of Tranquillum House. Yao and Delilah are the personal wellness consultants to the guests during their stay. Most of the book is about Frances – she rates 23 of the 79 chapters in the book.

The book starts off slow, but once the characters and setting are set, it picks up. With so many characters, there are a variety of topics touched on in this book. Some of the characters have serious and devastating stories, and some of them have more common, or even a little frivolous, issues in their lives.

Liane Moriarty’s writing style flows so easily, and makes for a quick and absorbing read. As usual with Moriarty’s books, there is a mix of humor along with the serious stuff. Nine Perfect Strangers is an engaging and entertaining read.

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Book Review: A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne

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Title: A Ladder to the Sky
Author: John Boyne
Publisher: Hogarth
Publish Date: November 13, 2018
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Goodreads Ratings: Me 4.0 / Community 4.21

from Amazon:
Maurice Swift is handsome, charming, and hungry for fame. The one thing he doesn’t have is talent – but he’s not about to let a detail like that stand in his way. After all, a would-be writer can find stories anywhere. They don’t need to be his own.

Working as a waiter in a West Berlin hotel in 1988, Maurice engineers the perfect opportunity: a chance encounter with celebrated novelist Erich Ackermann. He quickly ingratiates himself with the powerful – but desperately lonely – older man, teasing out of Erich a terrible, long-held secret about his activities during the war. Perfect material for Maurice’s first novel.

Once Maurice has had a taste of literary fame, he knows he can stop at nothing in pursuit of that high. Moving from the Amalfi Coast, where he matches wits with Gore Vidal, to Manhattan and London, Maurice hones his talent for deceit and manipulation, preying on the talented and vulnerable in his cold-blooded climb to the top. But the higher he climbs, the further he has to fall…

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A manipulative man, Maurice Swift, makes a career as an author. Maurice has some basic skills as a writer, but he has a difficult time coming up with ideas. So, he takes ideas from others and claims them as his own.

This is a story about a selfish rising author. He can write, but his stories are boring. He gets a taste of fame as a young man, and goes to great lengths to continue his career. The novel is divided into sections, which reflect Maurice’s life – a young man starting out, after receiving a taste of fame, married life, and life as a father. The different sections aren’t all told from Maurice’s point of view, in fact, a good deal of the novel is told from the viewpoint of Maurice’s targets (i.e., the victims).

The first part of this book is great. This is where we are introduced to Maurice, and his manipulative character is developed and his career is started. The second part of the novel is much darker. I was pulled into the manipulative world of Maurice, but the overall story felt somehow off. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, because I enjoyed the book. I think the darker, more sinister turn later in the book took the story in a direction it didn’t necessarily need to go. Still, this is a great read.

Maurice is a psychopath. His actions are somewhat unbelievable, but make for an entertaining read. Tragic, compelling, and frustrating.

I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

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Title: The Female Persuasion
Author: Meg Wolitzer
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publish Date: April 3, 2018

from Amazon:
Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at sixty-three, has been a central pillar of the women’s movement for decades, a figure who inspires others to influence the world. Upon hearing Faith speak for the first time, Greer- madly in love with her boyfriend, Cory, but still full of longing for an ambition that she can’t quite place- feels her inner world light up. And then, astonishingly, Faith invites Greer to make something out of that sense of purpose, leading Greer down the most exciting path of her life as it winds toward and away from her meant-to-be love story with Cory and the future she’d always imagined.

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Greer is a college freshman when she meets Faith Frank. Faith is in her sixties and has been involved with the women’s movement for many years. Faith is encouraging to Greer, and even hires her later on in the story. This book follows Greer’s journey through college and young adulthood, where she explores her relationships and ambitions.

Told using multiple points of view, but most of the story is from Greer’s POV. At the start of the novel, Greer is smart, but she’s studying at her backup school due to issues with her parents. Her boyfriend is at another school, and she’s a little lonely and lost at the onset of the story. As she makes friends and gets involved in college, she starts to learn a little more about herself and develop a desire to get more involved with women’s rights. Faith is a strong influence on Greer. After Greer graduates college, she work with a foundation founded by Faith.

There are sisterhood and feminist ideas in this book, but it’s not all sunshine and roses. Greer and Faith are both flawed, and make some poor decisions. My favorite part of the story was Cory, Greer’s boyfriend. I find it interesting that the most intriguing character in a book about women, was a man.

This contemporary novel addresses some relevant topics, including feminism, privilege, and rape culture. While I see how it could promote some interesting discussions, it’s also kind of long and slow. I’m glad I read it, and it’s a good read for fans of contemporary women’s fiction.

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Book Review: The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon

The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon

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Title: The Incendiaries
Author: R. O. Kwon
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publish Date: July 31, 2018

Phoebe Lin and Will Kendall meet in their first month at prestigious Edwards University. Phoebe is a glamorous girl who doesn’t tell anyone she blames herself for her mother’s recent death. Will is a misfit scholarship boy who transfers to Edwards from Bible college, waiting tables to get by. What he knows for sure is that he loves Phoebe.

Grieving and guilt-ridden, Phoebe is drawn into a secretive cult founded by a charismatic former student with an enigmatic past. When the group commits a violent act in the name of faith, Will finds himself struggling to confront a new version of the fanaticism he’s worked so hard to escape.

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Will and Phoebe are dating. While their relationship develops, Phoebe also gets involved with an extremist religious group. After the group bombs several abortion clinics, Phoebe disappears.

This story follows three characters – Will, Phoebe, and John. Will and Phoebe meet at college and start dating. John is the leader of a cult that Phoebe gets involved with while she is dating Will. Chapters are divided to distinguish the alternate viewpoints, but it’s a bit deceptive. It is often Will narrating for Phoebe and John, with how he imagines things to be. This didn’t work for me. I was unable to connect with any of the characters, and I was really interested in Phoebe, but her character fell flat.

This is a short novel, but a slow read. This is definitely a character driven story. The action part of the story is known upfront, so the intrigue is in why is Phoebe drawn into the cult. Dark, convoluted, and tragic.

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Book Review: Father Figure by James J. Cudney

Father Figure by James J. Cudney

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Title: Father Figure
Author: James J. Cudney
Publisher: Creativia
Publish Date: April 2, 2018

Between the fast-paced New York City, a rural Mississippi town and a charming Pennsylvania college campus filled with secrets, two young girls learn the consequences of growing up too quickly.

Amalia Graeme, abused by her mother for most of her life, longs to escape her desolate hometown and fall in love. Contemplating her loss of innocence and conflicting feelings between her boyfriend and the dangerous attraction she’s developed for an older man, Amalia faces life-altering tragedies.

Brianna Porter, a sassy, angst-ridden teenager raised in New York City, yearns to find her life’s true purpose, conquer her fear of abandonment, and interpret an intimidating desire for her best friend, Shanelle. Desperate to find the father whom her mother refuses to reveal, Brianna accidentally finds out a shocking truth about her missing parent.

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A story about two teenage girls. For Amalia, it’s the mid-1980s, and she’s desperate to leave her small town in Mississippi. For Brianna, it’s 2004 and she’s ready to leave New York City to to go off to college on her own.

Told with alternating points of view and alternating timelines. As with most books involving alternating timelines, part of the draw is seeing how the stories are connected. Both characters are similar in that they are teenagers wanting to be on their own and away from home. That’s where the similarities end though, because they have very different reasons for wanting to escape their hometown lives.

Amalia is an insecure teen in Mississippi. She is naive, lonely, and hopeful. She wants to leave her small town and escape her abusive mother. She also wants to fall in love.

Brianna is an angsty teen in New York City. She is sassy, selfish, and independent. She is struggling with two main issues, her sexuality and her father’s identity. She is sometimes attracted to men, but she is also finding herself attracted to her best friend. As for her father’s identity, her mother has been less than forthcoming about him, so Brianna sets out to find who he is on her own.

I really only had one issue with this book, but it held me back from truly connecting with the characters. This falls under books about teenage girls written by men, so not always a convincing female perspective. I will say that I enjoyed Amalia and was hoping for the best with her story. I really didn’t care for Brianna. She was too dramatic, and kind of hurtful to the people she supposedly cared about.

A contemporary story with an intriguing mystery. Tragic and heartbreaking.

I read a Kindle version of this book. This book is currently available with Kindle Unlimited.

Book Review: Watching Glass Shatter by James J. Cudney

Watching Glass Shatter by James J. Cudney

Watching Glass Shatter

by James J. Cudney
Creativia – October 8, 2017
My Rating: ★★★★ out of 5

After 40 years of marriage, Olivia Glass thought she could handle the unexpected death of her husband. But when Ben’s will reveals a life-altering secret, she suffers a blow no widow should ever experience.

Olivia learns that she gave birth to a baby who later died in the nursery. Instead of telling his wife what happened, Ben switched the child with another. And as if that’s not enough, Ben’s will doesn’t reveal which of their five sons is truly not hers.

While an attorney searches for answers, Olivia visits each of her sons to share a final connection before facing the truth that will change their family, and discovers that each of them has been harboring a painful secret, just like their father.

Olivia challenges herself to re-assemble and save their relationships. But will the secrets destroy their family beyond repair?

After the Glass family loses Benjamin in a tragic accident, his family’s world is shattered. Benjamin had a secret that he kept hidden from his wife, Olivia, which she finds out after reading a letter Benjamin left for her as part of his will. Before revealing the secret to their five grown sons, Olivia wants to spend time with each of them to reconnect. As she gets to know each of her sons, she learns they have all been keeping secrets from one another.

Each chapter is focused on a different character’s story. The five sons each have challenges in their lives, and they have all been holding things back from their family. Mainly, they’ve been holding back from their mother, but also from each other. The characters were all interesting and well-developed. Of course, I had my favorites, but everyone’s story was nicely done.

A strong debut novel. Great for fans of complex family dramas. Intriguing, emotional, and highly entertaining. I look forward to reading more by James Cudney.

Book Review: Soldier On by J. D. Wynne

Soldier On by J. D. Wynne

Soldier On
by J. D. Wynne

Molly is a young woman in the Army reserves. She wants to be a doctor, and joins the reserves to pay for medical school. After 9/11 strikes, she is working alongside active duty troops to guard prisoners in Afghanistan. During her time in Afghanistan, she works long hours, shares camaraderie with other female soldiers, and falls for a guy.

This story is told from Molly’s point of view, with some parts of the book written as diary entries. I kind of wish the entire book had been diary entries. Maybe it would have flowed a little better. Sometimes the perspective switched from first to third person, making it a choppy read.

Molly is a likable character. She works hard, has a sense of humor, stands strong, and seems real. She is young and doing a very difficult job. She is away from her family and friends, which can be very lonely. Molly is friendly and works at making her time there bearable, which makes it hard to read when tragedy strikes.

This read a little like a YA book. The main character is nineteen, and everything is from her point of view. A good read for young women interested in the military.

I received a digital copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Friends and Other Liars by Kaela Coble

Friends and Other Liars by Kaela Coble

Friends and Other Liars
by Kaela Coble

A group of childhood friends gather 10 years after high school at one of their funerals. “The Crew” is Danny, Ruby, Murphy, Ally, and Emmett. They have fallen out of touch over the years, but come together at Danny’s funeral. Danny has left a sealed envelope for each of his friends containing their biggest secrets. He wants them to tell their secrets to each other, or they risk a more public outing to occur if they don’t come clean on their own.

Told from multiple points of view, but mostly from Ruby’s POV. The story is also told with multiple timelines, current day and flashbacks from their younger years.

Friend drama. A light, entertaining read that kept my interest. I was curious what everyone’s secrets would be, though they were not hard to guess. I read this on vacation, and it was a good choice for a vacation read.

I received a copy of this book from Sourcebooks Landmark and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Welcome Home Diner by Peggy Lampman

The Welcome Home Diner by Peggy Lampman

The Welcome Home Diner
by Peggy Lampman

Cousins, Addie and Sam, open Welcome Home Diner in Detroit. They start to see some success, the only problem is that they don’t exactly have the support of the neighborhood where the restaurant is located.

This story is told from alternating points of view. Addie was super annoying and Sam was only slightly better, though she was the more flighty one. It was okay to read both Addie and Sam’s viewpoints, but a third person story would have worked too. The most interesting characters were the staff of the diner.

The cousins are both a bit idealistic, but work hard to build a successful business. Part way into the novel, their relationship is strained. That makes both their personal and professional lives more tense.

This book was hard for me to get into. Not a lot happens. It’s about food and relationships, where the food part was more engaging than the relationships.

I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway.

Book Review: Just Another Week in Suburbia by Les Zig

Just Another Week in Suburbia by Les Zig

Just Another Week in Suburbia
by Les Zig

Casper lives the typical suburban life. One morning, he finds something in his wife’s purse that changes everything.

The story was told from Casper’s point of view. After making a discovery about his wife, he started to question things. The book covered one week of Casper’s life, starting on Monday and ending on Sunday.

Realistic and relatable. Casper and his wife seemed to live the average, kind of boring suburban life. After Casper started to question his marriage, he encountered additional issues in life. His work life got more complicated and his feud with his neighbor escalated. At first, I wasn’t a fan of Casper. He was too weak. He struggled with insecurity, but his awareness lead to his growth as the story progressed. In the end, I found myself rooting for Casper. I wanted things to turn around in his life.

I was expecting this to be a slower read, but I flew through this book. Sure, the mundane and every day life was covered, but this well-written book had enough going on that I wanted to know how the story would end.

I received this book from Pantera Press and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.