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Book Review: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

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What If It's UsWhat If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

With all the hype in the last few years about these authors, I knew I needed to read one of each of their books. I requested a few from the library and got placed in the queue to wait my turn. This was the first novel that showed up, so I get to sample them both at the same time. It was a fantastic read, and I ended up just shy of 4.5 stars hence rounding down to 4 on the ratings charts. Let’s dive into my thoughts…

While the first few chapters drew me in on many levels, I squirmed a lot over the dialog and viability of the scenarios. I live in New York City. I’ve been to this post office many times. I couldn’t visualize it based on how things were laid out. It definitely could happen; however, between the dialog of the characters and this meet-cute scenario, I thought they were mid-20s at first. On the flip side, I’m not in my 20s now, so it’s possible I’m a tad removed from how things currently work in the dating world! What this book ultimately made me do / think after finishing 90% of it was… how in the world do people date in today’s times? These two guys are ~17 in NYC riding subways on their own and going all over the place. In my day (wow, that makes me sound way older than I am) I was a scared little boy who wouldn’t have (a) been allowed to nor (b) felt comfortable doing it. Perhaps that’s more of a comment on me and not the book, but I couldn’t imagine having a conversation with my parents about ‘dick-picks’ from people online. However, in 2018, it’s probably warranted with so much technology and social media in our hands.

My only other concern with the book was the ending. If you prefer not to know, skip this paragraph. If you are okay with small spoilers, keep reading. So… I’m reading along wondering if the book will be a happily-ever-after story or a heart-crushing painful one. I’m definitely more like Arthur minus the Jewish background and desire to attend Yale. I have a free spirit like Ben but I would never show up late nor be friends with an ex the way he was. At 95% in, the book ends with Arthur going back to Georgia for his senior year (was in NYC with parents just for a summer). We don’t know how it ends… but in the epilogue, we do. They go off to college / career separately and have different lives that still intersect. I don’t want to give it all away, but it made me stop and think… isn’t letting go of love hard? I’ve had two prior long-term relationships (5+ years each) end before I met my current partner. Going thru that at 17 (a precocious 17) must be worse.

Yikes, this is a review about a book. Why am I being so personal? I suppose it means the writing, characters, and story were that strong… I connected on many levels. To see how two young guys in high school learn how to date, how not to get mauled on a subway by a bigot, to deal with parents meeting one another, to be out at such a young age… it’s all a challenging and eye-opening experience. I see it with younger friends and family, but to read about it with two kids you just want to hug is a different sort of emotional heart-string tug. I admit I teared up in the end, and Ben’s grand gesture was adorable.

So… I’ll definitely read more from both authors. I recommend this book. Some will find it trite / overdone / simple… but honestly, they just like to complain and have no heart (no offense intended, I respect our differences)… I always look for the wonderful sentiments in a book and enjoy when my boundaries are pushed to think about things differently. Kudos for making it happen here.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are three books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, and Flower Power Trip (March 2019). I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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Book Review: The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

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The House at RivertonThe House at Riverton by Kate Morton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kate Morton came into my life just under 3 years ago. I don’t remember how, but I picked up one of her books and absolutely fell in love with her writing style, characters, and multi-dimensional storytelling abilities. After almost 3 years, I’ve finished reading all 6 of her books; it’s a tad amusing that the last one I read is actually the first book she wrote — The House at Riverton, or The Shifting Fog, as it was previously known. For me, she’s the queen of historical fiction when the focus is on ‘ordinary’ families in a world from ~ a century ago. The House at Riverton is no exception, and while not my favorite of her tomes, is quite a splendid novel very reminiscent of Downtown Abbey.

In this book, Grace is ~100 years old and dying very soon. She has a story and a secret about the past to tell her wayward grandson who’s gone missing after his wife died of an aneurysm. Through flashbacks and other POVs, we learn about Grace’s time as a maid and ladies maid in the Hartford family household. We witness conversations in the current period between Grace and Ursula, a film director telling the story of what happened when a family friend and renowned poet committed suicide in the 1920s at the Hartford estate. We find out who actually loved whom, and which family members shouldn’t have been trusted. All set against the gorgeous backdrop of the English countryside, it’s a powerful and emotional tale about fighting your desires and knowing when it’s time to give in.

One of the things that made this book so appealing is how similar it was to Downton Abbey. There’s a family torn apart by war. Girls cannot inherit their father’s estate. Love between classes is forbidden. Estates cost too much. A daughter must marry into a wealthy family to survive. But then it goes off on its own path with a murder, an affair, and a past indiscretion connecting two people who never knew until it was too late. Morton can weave the most elaborate stories to warm the heart. I feel such passion and connection with her words and imagery. I can think of no other author who evokes such lyrical enthusiasm and despair in a scene on multiple levels that overwhelm you and excite you at the same time.

While a majority of this book is amazing, there were a few areas that I struggled with… hence 4 stars. The beginning is a bit too slow; it takes time to develop characters, but Morton uses a few different techniques to foreshadow what’s to come in the future almost crossing that invisible line with audience. For example, there’s a paragraph ending a chapter that actually speaks to readers saying, “You think she should have done this, but no, instead, she does this… and this is why what happens to her later was so painful.” I paraphrased to not give away any spoilers, but you get the basics. Another concern I had was how certain storylines were left too open-ended for my taste. We know two characters re-connect 40 years later, but how / why. We know there was a blood relationship between two characters, but was it ever acknowledged? We know one character leaves a letter to another, but what happened with the gift she also left behind? Who was Lady Clementine and how did she fit into this family?

Some of those were loosely explained, but with a powerhouse like Morton, I expect everything to be properly tied together. I’m okay with vague, but there needs to be some clarity on what the ‘options’ are as opposed to just making a statement and never exploring the follow-thru aspects. That said, this doesn’t happen in her later books, so I think these were debut author style changes… and definitely ones I’m glad she eventually made. All said, it’s a must read. The book is slower than others, with less of a major climax, but fully immersive and extravagant in other ways. I am sad that it’ll be at least another year before her next one…

View all my reviews
About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Sea Cliff by Mary Deal

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Sea CliffSea Cliff by Mary Deal

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sea Cliff is a very appropriate title for this book. Not only is Mary Deal’s story about a beautiful area in San Francisco named Sea Cliff, but it’s also the way to describe the main character’s emotions as she struggled with overcoming a haunting past and accepting love for a promising future. I’ve read many of Deal’s books before, and even though I don’t usually read in the love / romance genre, I read this one because the author is just that good of a writer. It did not disappoint on any level.

Main character, Rachael, is an author who finds inspiration in Matthew, a handsome guy she meets in a park. At first, she’s hesitant because he’s too forward and overly interested. She suspects ulterior motives, but pushes herself to extend her boundaries. She’s been emotionally and physically abused in the past which has left her unable to trust others. She lost both her parents, has a difficult relationship with her brother, and isn’t able to keep friendships all because of this pain. But life’s not all bad… she’s published two books, she’s inherited some money and a house, and she is starting to open up. As the story progresses, she lets Matthew in but not consistently enough resulting in several moments and interactions that leave them both uncertain of their future. After an emotional and turbulent event changes the course of their relationship for a few months, readers are never certain how it all might end up.

I daresay this isn’t a typical romance novel. While there are definitely large chapters and chunks of the book focused on the growing romance and subsequent roadblocks, it’s more a study in the life of a woman over the course of about 18 months as she goes through many changes to accept herself. There are several romantic scenes, but it’s not a huge piece of the action. It’s more of an emotional and psychological tale where we see the ebbs and flows of Rachael’s ability to open up. As she meets new characters and takes on bigger roles in her career, we see confidence and pain emerge. She struggling, and we root for her, which makes the story easy to read.

Deal is a very talented writer who can evoke emotion from her readers. I don’t want to give away too much more, but there’s a climactic event that truly tests Rachael (and Matthew) where as readers, we can’t decide what to feel or think… and we want to grab hold of someone and shake them for what they’ve done… but ultimately, we might be misunderstanding what’s really going on. There’s a little bit of suspense, a hint of ‘coming of age’ although Rachael’s already a fully grown adult, and a gripping saga about how to move on from damages. Deal pushes readers to explore how they’d react in some tough situations, then provides a calm relief where things seem to be okay. Only they’re not… and it takes a lot more to overcome something we didn’t realize was so powerful in the past.

Although I’m still not sure romance books are a go-to genre for me, Deal’s writing and style makes this a much more genre-crossing story for me that I’d be open to sampling a few others who tread the water in this realm. I’m thrilled with this book and the fact that I devoured it on a 3-hour train ride should show how true it is. I never wanted to put it down nor did I get bored of any plot or setting which I’d been worried about purely because of it being a non-norm genre for me. I should’ve known better… the genre might spook me a bit, but the author consistently delivers no matter what she writes. If you’re read her work before, but don’t read in this genre, it’s got props and strength – very worth the read. If you love romance and like a little extra, give this one a shot. It’s full of depth and hope, sorrow and worry… but the ups and downs the characters go thru are worth it. Solid read… definitely recommended.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

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Ever since I read my first book by Kate Morton, I’ve been keen to read all her others. This month I went with The Secret Keeper since I tend to love books where there’s a secret buried somewhere that must come out despite every intent to bury it years ago. I was thrilled with the novel and can’t wait to take on the next one.

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The book takes place over a period of ~60 years focusing for the most part on Dorothy (Dolly) and daughter Laurel. We see snapshots of their lives while Laurel tries to unravel the mystery of a childhood incident where she’s certain she saw her mother stab a stranger. We see the perspective of a few other characters who interacted with Dolly when she was younger, as well as Laurel’s three sisters and one brother. It all comes together in a surprising conclusion where readers are forced to decide how we feel about an event that can be seen from many different angles.

Morton is the best at weaving together a story full of so many different side stories, you can never tell which will be the significant one to change the entire ending or plot arc to capture your shock. As this one moved along, I enjoyed the lyrical prose, tense dialog, well-drawn characters, and thrilling descriptions. About 75% through, when I thought I’d figured most of it out, I was feeling a bit disappointed. It was good, but that shock factor didn’t emerge as powerfully as I’d hoped. A few chapters later, in the most unusual place, I thought I saw an error. I re-read the passage twice, then realized — Oh, here’s that crazy twist! And what a fantastic one it was. 🙂

At that point, my opinion on the book shot up from a 4 to a 4.5. I would love to give it 5 stars, and it’s close, but there were a few moments of repetition and slowness that held me back. By no means did it make me want to put it down and wait days before reading again. It just didn’t force me to stay up super late… but that’s okay, sleep is needed, too. Overall, the story is very enthralling on many levels. You’ve got a backdrop of war, then modern social media times. You’ve got a mother who might or might not be lying or be a killer. As you read the historical portions, you can’t decide which of two girls is the one to believe. It keeps you going to the point you almost think they’re both lying, but which is the most pertinent among all the confusion?

Above all the plot and story, the settings are among the most gorgeous and captivating as any I’ve ever read before. Morton can describe the simplest things in the most complex terms, but it still makes me yearn for more. I never think “ugh, she’s completely overdone it,” but there are times when I would be okay with a few less words if it’s not ultimately important to the detail of the story. It’s a fine line, and in 98% of the cases, she’s spot on.

If you’ve never read her work, this is a good one, but I’d start with The Forgotten Garden then come to this one. I’ve two more left to read of hers, then I’ll probably have to wait a year for the next to be published. Oh well… sometimes patience is a good thing.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

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Author Fredrik Backman is in my TOP 5 writers of all time. I’ve read 4 of his books now, and they always have a profound impact on me. I’m hoping to finish reading them all this year which is why Britt-Marie Was Here made it to my September TBR. If you’re familiar with his work, it’s a combination of ‘A Man Called Ove’ and ‘Beartown’ in terms of the love of sport, the human condition’s intensity, and the desire for a different life. All in all, I gave it 4.25 stars as it was better than a 4 but I couldn’t round up to a 5 on this one.

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Britt-Marie is in her early 60s and has left her husband, Kent, after she caught him cheating on her via the other woman taking him to the hospital as he had a heart attack. Although she’s independent, Britt-Marie has been cared for too long by others to know exactly how to survive on her own. She succeeds on many levels when she moves to a town, Borg, not too far away from home to get her first outside-of-the-home job since she was a waitress right after high school and right before marrying Kent. In Borg, life is basically listless, scarce, and penniless. It’s been hit by a financial crisis and no one has money for anything. Britt-Marie does her best to find a way to make the move to a new job and a new residence something positive, but it doesn’t go very smoothly at first. In time, she evolves into a more open-minded individual, yet her core beliefs remain stalwart. She’s ornery but lovable, kind but too direct, thoughtful but not very worldly. It makes her human like the rest of us.

Backman’s style is usually on-point when it comes to connecting with his readers. This book is no exception; however, there were several sections with either translation issues (it wasn’t originally written in English) or a purposed attempt to write in a different manner from what he’s shown us before. Examples include frequent repetition of words or phrases that it became too obvious. Was it intended or just the translation — I’m not certain, but it caused me to stumble a fair number of times. Another concern was a general casualization (yep, I’m making up words) of some characters where I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to root for them or ignore them. The end result was some felt too similar while others felt strong but underused given their purpose in the story.

That said, the rest is amazing. I felt the connection between Britt-Marie and everyone she meets who changes her life. I saw the lackluster relationship with Kent but understood why she couldn’t leave him. I felt the pain of what her childhood resulted in when it came to how she viewed herself and let others view her. I adored the way she persistently nagged the unemployment office employee only to become the woman’s bright hope for the future. It’s only when an author is an innate talent can these types of well-embedded structures, depths, and life perceptions be truly integrated into a story. That’s where, how, and why Backman leads the race when it comes to producing truly remarkable stories.

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: A Stranger in France by Kim Knight

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Love comes in all forms. Sometimes you fall in love, then out of love. It happens. As it did in A Stranger in France by Kim Knight. Kate is a wonderful heroine. Unfortunately, she’s emotionally abused by an alcoholic husband. When he pushes her beyond reason, she escapes to France to visit a good friend. She meets a stranger and falls in love. Everything becomes quite wonderful quite quickly. But then it gets a little complicated. She wants out of her marriage. She wants to love her new boyfriend. Can she make it work? If she can’t, I’ll take ’em!

I’m not a romance reader. This book might change my mind. Knight builds a beautiful character in Kate, and I believe her journey and approach to how she wants to fix her life. I’m sad when she encounters trouble. I’m happy when she wins. It happens a lot and then Kate worries it’s not all real, but Knight made me a believer. Is there truly a prince charming (or princess!) out there for all of us? The thriller and mystery buff in me waited for the shoe to fall… I won’t say if/when/how it does. But… you’ll have to read to know.

Knight created a series of scenes and events that easily make you attached to her characters. For story and hope alone, I gave this 5 stars. But it’s quite a solid book and will bring lots of joy and curiosity to many. I like the casual yet structured style between phone calls, letters, text messages and emails. It is modern but old-fashioned. I love a fairy tale ending. I wish I could tell you if we got one here, but that’d be spoiling the story, wouldn’t it?

Kudos to Knight for telling a wonderful story. I must check out more of her work now!

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Winter Blossoms by Paul Iasevoli

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Both the title and the cover of this book caught my attention. Winter Blossoms, a novel published in 2018 by Paul Iasevoli, takes place in 1980s New York City where a young twenty-something named Chris struggles to survive amidst everything blowing up around him. Friends dying of a mysterious disease, his boyfriend cheating on him with a woman, learning how to date in a very sexually-charged gay culture… Iasevoli tackles it all in small doses and scenes in this very realistic novella. It’s under 100 pages and reads quickly… taking us through several of NYC’s boroughs where we understand the different types of opportunities presented to Chris over the course of a few months. With each page that passes by, you wonder… will he end up okay or will he disappear and/or fall down along his path?

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Running the range of both graphic physical and lighthearted emotional tension, we see Chris handle a break-up, casual sex, the bar scene, falling in love, and learning to trust himself. Iasevoli will transport you to the not-so-distant past and show you a different side of life you may not know of or ever experienced. In some ways, it’s much the same today in terms of trying to find love amidst immediate gratification. It’s also very different than today where our mobile phones, internet-culture, and general acceptance of a different lifestyle offers things much more easily. Thirty-five years ago, it wasn’t easy finding someone to potentially fall in love with in a culture and environment were much was still taboo and opportunity was often slim. Casual might have been easier to find, but that’s not what Chris wants.

As an intro to this author, I very much enjoyed the writing style and scenery depicted in this work. The characters were well-drawn for a short novel… just enough to get a feel for who they are but not too much where the picture is fully painted. I look forward to seeing more from Paul Iasevoli.

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.