Book Review: Meg & Jo by Virginia Kantra

Meg & Jo by Virginia Kantra


BOOK INFO

Title: Meg & Jo
Author: Virginia Kantra
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: December 3, 2019
Genre: Contemporary
Series: na
Goodreads Ratings: Me 3.00 / Community 3.74


BOOK BLURB

The timeless classic Little Women inspired this heartwarming modern tale of four sisters from New York Times bestselling author Virginia Kantra.

The March sisters—reliable Meg, independent Jo, stylish Amy, and shy Beth—have grown up to pursue their separate dreams. When Jo followed her ambitions to New York City, she never thought her career in journalism would come crashing down, leaving her struggling to stay afloat in a gig economy as a prep cook and secret food blogger.

Meg appears to have the life she always planned—the handsome husband, the adorable toddlers, the house in a charming subdivision. But sometimes getting everything you’ve ever wanted isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

When their mother’s illness forces the sisters home to North Carolina for the holidays, they’ll rediscover what really matters.

One thing’s for sure—they’ll need the strength of family and the power of sisterhood to remake their lives and reimagine their dreams.



Buy from Amazon
Add to Goodreads


MY REVIEW

A retelling featuring the March sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. The two older sisters, Meg and Jo, are the focus of this novel. Meg is living a picture perfect life as a stay-at-home mother. Jo is living in New York working as a cook and food blogger. When their mother gets ill, the sisters step in to help out.

Told from the alternating points of view of Meg and Jo. They live completely different lives, but both women want to be there for their family. A modern tale of family, life, romance, work, and sisterhood.

An enjoyable read. Recommended for fans of Little Women and contemporary novels.

I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase.

Book Review: After the End by Clare Mackintosh

After the End by Clare Mackintosh

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase.

BOOK INFO
Title: After the End
Author: Clare Mackintosh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publish Date: June 25, 2019
Genre: Contemporary
Series: n/a
Goodreads Ratings: Me 3.0 / Community 4.45

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. They’re best friends, lovers—unshakable. But then their son gets sick and the doctors put the question of his survival into their hands. For the first time, Max and Pip can’t agree. They each want a different future for their son.

What if they could have both?

A gripping and propulsive exploration of love, marriage, parenthood, and the road not taken, After the End brings one unforgettable family from unimaginable loss to a surprising, satisfying, and redemptive ending and the life they are fated to find. With the emotional power of Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, Mackintosh helps us to see that sometimes the end is just another beginning.

After the End by Clare Mackintosh
Buy from Amazon
Add to Goodreads

MY REVIEW
A happily married couple are given the devastating news that their son has a brain tumor, and his prognosis is terminal. His doctors recommend end of life care only. His parents are split on what to do. One agrees with the doctors and the other wants to pursue other treatments. Since the parents cannot agree, the decision is left to the court system.

Told with alternating points of view – Pip (mother), Max (father), and Leila (doctor). The novel is also split between before and after. The “before” part tells the family’s story up until the court’s decision. The “after” story is using alternative scenarios – the court ruling with the mother and the court ruling with the father. Pip and Max both have valid reasons for their decisions, and both believe they are doing what is best for their child.

I have mixed emotions about this novel. I feel the topic is relevant and thought-provoking, but I was not a fan of how the story was told. I enjoyed the alternating POVs of Pip and Max, but Leila could have been dropped. Some aspects of her story were interesting, but, overall, the book could have worked without her POV. My main issue was the alternate scenarios. They were sometimes confusing, and just didn’t work for me.

This novel deals with a controversial topic. In After the End it’s interesting that the parents could not agree on a medical decision, so it was forced into the courts. I imagine this could be a great book club read. Though it may cause some uncomfortable conversations.

An emotional contemporary family saga. This is a difficult book to read, and not one that everyone will feel comfortable reading. Heartbreaking and tragic.

I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Valencia and Valentine by Suzy Krause

Valencia and Valentine by Suzy Krause

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase.

BOOK INFO
Title: Valencia and Valentine
Author: Suzy Krause
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: June 1, 2019
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Goodreads Ratings: Me 3.0 / Community 3.62

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
For readers of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, debut author Suzy Krause delivers a quirky, colorful story about love, loss, second chances, and what it means to truly live.

Valencia, a timid debt collector with crippling OCD, is afraid of many things, but the two that scare her most are flying and turning thirty-five. To confront those fears, Valencia’s therapist suggests that she fly somewhere — anywhere — before her upcoming birthday. And as Valencia begins a telephone romance with a man from New York, she suddenly has a destination in mind. There’s only one problem — he might not actually exist.

Mrs. Valentine is an eccentric old woman desperate for company, be it from neighbors, telemarketers, or even the funeral director (when you’re her age, you go to a lot of funerals). So she’s thrilled when the new cleaning girl provides a listening ear for her life’s story — a tale of storybook love and incredible adventures around the world with her husband before his mysterious and sudden disappearance.

The stories of Valencia and Mrs. Valentine may at first appear to have nothing in common… but then again, nothing in life is as straightforward as it seems.


Buy from Amazon
Add to Goodreads

MY REVIEW
Valencia is a 35-year-old debt collector. Mrs. Valentine is an 87-year-old lonely widow. Both are somewhat obsessed with death.

Valencia and Mrs. Valentine’s stories are told with alternating points of view. Valencia is stuck in a job she doesn’t love, has no friends, and struggles with her crippling fears and OCD. She wants to change her life, and starts to make strides in that direction. Along the way, she starts a romance with a man she talks with on the phone at work and she becomes friends with a new coworker. Mrs. Valentine is lonely, and talks to anyone who gives her the chance – neighbors, telemarketers, and her new cleaning lady. She loves to tell her stories, and is excited the new cleaning lady wants to here about her life.

This was my pick for Amazon’s First Reads in May 2019. I wasn’t a big fan of this book. I found the plot too convoluted, yet predictable. The characters both have fairly sad lives, and some parts came off as quite dark. I was expecting something a little more heartwarming and light. A bittersweet novel of love and loneliness.

Book Review: My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase.

BOOK INFO
Title: My Sister, the Serial Killer
Author: Oyinkan Braithwaite
Publisher: Doubleday Books
Publish Date: November 20, 2018
Genre: Contemporary
Goodreads Ratings: Me 4.0 / Community 3.83

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
A short, darkly funny, hand grenade of a novel about a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends.

“Femi makes three, you know. Three and they label you a serial killer.”

Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead.

Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit.

Korede has long been in love with a kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where she works. She dreams of the day when he will realize that she’s exactly what he needs. But when he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and how far she’s willing to go to protect her.

Sharp as nails and full of deadpan wit, Oyinkan Braithwaite’s deliciously deadly debut is as fun as it is frightening.


Buy from Amazon
Add to Goodreads

MY REVIEW
Ayoola and Korede are sisters. Ayoola is the beautiful sister, and has always been the favorite. She also has a history of her boyfriends dying while they are with her. Korede is the responsible sister that’s always there to help Ayoola. Korede wants some of the positive attention her sister always seems to get. Korede especially wants a doctor she works with to notice her. Unfortunately, the doctor is more interested in Ayoola than Korede.

Told from Korede’s point of view, this is a darkly humorous book about sisters. Korede is smart and practical. She has always looked out for her sister Ayoola, and continues to do that in spite of her sister’s killer tendencies. Ayoola is used to having everyone love her and always getting her way. On the rare occasion when things do not go her way, it does not end well.

This is not a mystery or thriller. It’s satirical contemporary fiction, where one of the characters happens to be a sociopathic serial killer. Mostly, this book is about the relationship between the sisters. Dark, disturbing, and complex.

I borrowed a copy of this book from my local library.

Book Review: I’m Fine and Neither Are You by Camille Pagán

I'm Fine and Neither Are You by Camille Pagan

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase.

BOOK INFO
Title: I’m Fine and Neither Are You
Author: Camille Pagán
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: April 1, 2019
Genre: Contemporary
Goodreads Ratings: Me 4.0 / Community 3.88

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
Honesty is the best policy… except maybe when it comes to marriage in this brilliant novel about the high price of perfection from bestselling author Camille Pagán.

Wife. Mother. Breadwinner. Penelope Ruiz-Kar is doing it all—and barely keeping it together. Meanwhile, her best friend, Jenny Sweet, appears to be sailing through life. As close as the two women are, Jenny’s passionate marriage, pristine house, and ultra-polite child stand in stark contrast to Penelope’s underemployed husband, Sanjay, their unruly brood, and the daily grind she calls a career.

Then a shocking tragedy reveals that Jenny’s life is far from perfect. Reeling, Penelope vows to stop keeping the peace and finally deal with the issues in her relationship. So she and Sanjay agree to a radical proposal: both will write a list of changes they want each other to make—then commit to complete and total honesty.

What seems like a smart idea quickly spirals out of control, revealing new rifts and even deeper secrets. As Penelope stares down the possible implosion of her marriage, she must ask herself: When it comes to love, is honesty really the best policy?


Buy from Amazon
Add to Goodreads

MY REVIEW
Penelope is working hard to keep her family together. She’s also beyond stressed with her work and home life. When her best friend dies, Penelope realizes other people’s lives aren’t as perfect as they appear. Penelope and her husband agree to make a list of things they want from the other. Despite the problems and secrets, they work to improve their relationship.

Penelope is faced with some harsh realities when her best friend, who seemed perfect, is gone. Her best friend had a lifestyle blog, and seemed to have a great marriage, the most well behaved child, and a perfectly decorated home. This has a ring of truth in the picture perfect lifestyle that is prevalent in our current culture. Penelope soon learns everything is not as it seems, and she reflects on her own life.

Contemporary women’s fiction. Penelope has a hard time balancing marriage, kids, and work. Something a lot of women can relate to. And I imagine a lot of the target audience for this book has been guilty of saying “I’m fine” rather than be vulnerable to their real thoughts and feelings. An emotional story that touches on some timely topics.

This was my Amazon First Reads pick for March 2019.

Book Review: Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase.

BOOK INFO
Title: Only Child
Author: Rhiannon Navin
Publisher: Knopf
Publish Date: February 6, 2018
Genre: Contemporary
Goodreads Ratings: Me 4.0 / Community 4.24

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
Readers of Jodi Picoult and Liane Moriarty will also like this tenderhearted debut about healing and family, narrated by an unforgettable six-year-old boy who reminds us that sometimes the littlest bodies hold the biggest hearts and the quietest voices speak the loudest.

Squeezed into a coat closet with his classmates and teacher, first grader Zach Taylor can hear gunshots ringing through the halls of his school. A gunman has entered the building, taking nineteen lives and irrevocably changing the very fabric of this close-knit community. While Zach’s mother pursues a quest for justice against the shooter’s parents, holding them responsible for their son’s actions, Zach retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of books and art. Armed with his newfound understanding, and with the optimism and stubbornness only a child could have, Zach sets out on a captivating journey towards healing and forgiveness, determined to help the adults in his life rediscover the universal truths of love and compassion needed to pull them through their darkest hours.


Buy from Amazon
Add to Goodreads

MY REVIEW
Zach and his first grade class squeeze into the classroom closet when a gunman enters the school. They can hear the gunshots as multiple lives are lost during the attack. After the shooting, Zach’s mother is one of the adults who holds the gunman’s parents responsible for their son’s actions. Zach is overlooked in a world of grieving adults. With his innocence and optimism, he attempts to help the ones he loves through the difficult time.

Told from the viewpoint of a child – Zach. An interesting POV, and one that seems fairly accurate. After such a terrible tragedy, not only are the children upset, but the adults are too. Seeing the behaviors and actions of the adults through a child’s eyes were a great way to tell this story.

Fantastic debut novel. An emotional story told in a captivating way. Loss, grief, anger, guilt, love, forgiveness, healing, and hope. This one can be hard to read due to the sensitive topic, but it’s well worth picking up.

I borrowed a copy of this book from my local library.

Book Review: The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase.

BOOK INFO
Title: The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls
Author: Anissa Gray
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: February 19, 2019
Genre: Contemporary
Goodreads Ratings: Me 3.0 / Community 3.73

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
The Butler family has had their share of trials—as sisters Althea, Viola, and Lillian can attest—but nothing prepared them for the literal trial that will upend their lives.

Althea, the eldest sister and substitute matriarch, is a force to be reckoned with and her younger sisters have alternately appreciated and chafed at her strong will. They are as stunned as the rest of the small community when she and her husband Proctor are arrested, and in a heartbeat the family goes from one of the most respected in town to utter disgrace. The worst part is, not even her sisters are sure exactly what happened.

As Althea awaits her fate, Lillian and Viola must come together in the house they grew up in to care for their sister’s teenage daughters. What unfolds is a stunning portrait of the heart and core of an American family in a story that is as page-turning as it is important.


Buy from Amazon
Add to Goodreads

MY REVIEW
Althea and her husband Proctor are arrested. Althea’s sisters, Lillian and Viola, step in to take care of Baby V and Kim, Althea’s teen daughters. The family is in upheaval after Althea and Proctor’s arrests, and everyone handles the aftereffects in their own way.

Told from alternating viewpoints, the family drama unfolds as consequences of past actions are dealt with. Althea is the eldest sister and an upstanding citizen. Until her arrest. Lillian and Viola each have their own stories, in addition to dealing with Althea’s arrest and taking care of her girls. As for the teens, Baby V and Kim are handling things in very different ways.

Unfortunately, this book never fully captured my attention. I did not connect with the characters… and not connecting with the characters meant I didn’t really care what happened to them, especially Althea. I was most interested in Lillian’s story, and I was curious as to how things would end with Baby V and Kim. Overall, this was an average read for me.

The women in the story are battling past and present secrets, loyalties, and guilt. It’s full of family drama and strong women, so it will appeal to many readers. Emotional, contemporary, and hopeful.

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

Book Review: Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase.

BOOK INFO
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

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon
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.


Buy from Amazon
Add to Goodreads

MY REVIEW
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

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase.

BOOK INFO
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

BOOK BLURB
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…


Buy from Amazon
Add to Goodreads

MY REVIEW
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

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase.

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

BOOK BLURB
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.


Buy from amazon.com
Add to Goodreads

MY REVIEW
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.