Thursday, August 15, 2019

Audiobook Review: The Nest, by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

The Next by Cynthis D'Aprix Sweeney book cover and review
The Nest, while beautifully written, was overly descriptive and just not the book for me.

The Nest is the story of four siblings who are expecting to come into their parents' substantial inheritance (which they refer to as The Nest) when the youngest of the four becomes 40 years old. When the time comes, they discover that their lawyer has given all the money to Leo, one of the siblings, to pay legal fees. The opening scene of the book is Leo leaving a wedding reception with a very young waitress in his very fast car. He's drunk, and as she's performing a sex act, they have an accident. She loses her foot and Leo is in hot water.  So the amount of The Nest is severely reduced, and Leo's siblings want him to pay it back.

The other three siblings are understandably shocked and also in deep trouble. At least two of them are. Jack is in hock for he and his partner's summer house that they've wanted for so long. Jack's partner has no idea the house has been mortgaged again. Jack will lose the house if he doesn't get the money.

Melody has twin girls that are planning on going to very exclusive private schools. How can she take that away from them? But she and her husband won't be able to afford it if they don't get The Nest. Bea is the other sibling, who has problems other than financial.

We learn literally everything about these siblings and their families. Their pasts, their lovers, their business dealings, their thoughts and feelings. And then we learn details of all the side characters. And there are a lot of them. The author goes on huge tangents. It all makes for a very detailed story in which not much happens. I did find myself chuckling and enjoying all of the literary devices that Sweeney uses. It goes on and on, and there isn't a huge payoff at the end, although I felt satisfied. I guess the bottom line is that this isn't my kind of book.

I get most of my audiobooks through the library, and most of them have a waitlist. So I listened to The Nest in three different segments because there was no waitlist for it. So when I finished a book and was waiting for the next one to become available, I would listen to some more of The Nest.

This turned out to be a good way for me to experience the book. I am also much more patient with audiobooks and don't mind so much that they are slow and meandering. Because The Nest certainly was. It also helps that the narrator, Mia Barron, was good. But she was slow too, so I had to listen at 1.5 speed.

I've read that The Nest is soon to be a motion picture, although I couldn't find anything on the IMDB. If you enjoy books just for the literary style and interesting characters, then I would highly recommend The Nest.

Published by Ecco, 2016
Audiobook obtained from the library
368 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Book Review: Things You Save in a Fire, by Katherine Center @katherinecenter

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center book cover and review
Once again, Things You Save in a Fire is not my usual fare.  I'm not sure why I chose to download it, but I really enjoyed this sweet story.

Cassie Hanwell is tough. She's been that way since she's had to deal with some tough situations in her short life. One being her mother leaving her dad for another man on Cassie's 16th birthday! And Cassie has never forgiven her mother.

But Cassie has found her niche. She's a firefighter -- a great firefighter, and as the story opens, she is being honored in Austin, Texas for her heroism. That ceremony will change her life.

I don't want to give too much away, but the ceremony disaster, as well as the fact that her estranged mother has asked Cassie to live with her for one year, has Cassie moving across the country to work for a fire department in a small town near Boston. Her mother has gone blind in one eye and needs Cassie to help out until she gets used to her new situation. Cassie wants nothing to do with her mother and has no intention of forgiving her or becoming close. Cassie has been warned that her new Captain will be difficult. He's one of those firefighters, along with his entire crew, who doesn't think women can be firefighters. Cassie has a lot to prove.

And it does prove difficult. But Cassie, being the tough girl she is, is up to the task. Sort of. Things, of course, don't go as expected, not just in her job, but in every other way.

I really enjoyed the pacing of Things You Save in a Fire. I thought the setup and drama of Cassie's new situation kept my interest and moved quickly. The romance is delightful and had me giggling more than once. The build-up of tension and danger at the end was perfect.

I loved the characters and wanted them to get their happily ever after. And for the most part they did -- after a lot of drama! All in all, Things You Save in a Fire was an easy, light-hearted (for the most part) book that drew me in and left me feeling warm and fuzzy. And, this one could have great appeal for teens too. A perfect little gem if you need a bit of fluff after all those dark fantasies, mysteries, wars, and sci-fi stories you've been reading lately (like me.)

Published by St. Martin's, August 13, 2019
eARC obtained from NetGalley
320 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Monday, August 12, 2019

Book Review: The Oysterville Sewing Circle by Susan Wiggs @susanwiggs

The Oysterville Sewing Circle by Susan Wiggs book cover and review
Contemporary dramas aren't my usual fare, but I enjoy them on occasion. Susan Wiggs is familiar to me, and The Oysterville Sewing Circle did not disappoint. I was drawn to this one because I love to sew, so anything with "sewing" in the title catches my attention.

Caroline is returning to her hometown, Oysterville, on the Pacific coast of Washington. She hasn't been here lately because she's been working so hard to become a successful clothing designer in New York. Well, things fall apart for Caroline in a couple of different ways.

First of all, just as she is about to achieve some success with her own designs, the designer she works for steals them from her. She has no recourse in this cutthroat business--it is her word against his.

Then, one of Caroline's best friend, Angelique, who is a successful model, dies of a drug overdose in Caroline's apartment. Caroline had suspected she was being abused by a man, but didn't push her on it. And Caroline had no idea Angelique was using drugs. Angelique has two small children--and Caroline is now their guardian.

So she comes home with these children in tow to the loving home of her parents, where she has several siblings. And they all work at her parent's very successful restaurant. Caroline has no interest in the restaurant, but she has no idea how she is going to support two children. Her entrance is also complicated by Will, a childhood best friend who married Caroline's best friend. She's always had feelings for Will that she has kept buried. And now she must face him and his wife once again.

Because of Caroline's guilt over Angelique's death, and her discovery that the abuse of women is much more prevalent than she ever imagined, Caroline wants to try to help these victims in some way. Thus, The Oysterville Sewing Circle is born.

The Oysterville Sewing Circle is a multi-layered romance/drama that easily drew me in. The romance isn't too sappy, although a bit predictable. Caroline's growing relationship with these small children is an interesting development. Her struggle to find a way to create a successful business and find some independence is compelling. And the realistic portrayal of several characters facing abuse is heartbreaking.

It all works well together, and make for a fascinating read. I would recommend The Oysterville Sewing Circle to anyone interested in contemporary drama/romance. Susan Wiggs will remain on my preferred author list.

Published by William Morrow, August 13, 2019
ARC won from a Goodreads contest, and eARC obtained from NetGalley
305 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, August 5, 2019

Book Review: The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware @RuthWareWriter

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware book cover and review
I enjoyed The Turn of the Key so much, it was almost "unputdownable." That hasn't happened to me for a while.

Rowan can't believe her good fortune. She's landed a great paying job at a gorgeous house in the Scottish Highlands, away from all the hustle of the city, nannying for three small children. She's been warned that previous nannies didn't last very long, but that doesn't stop her.

It is a difficult situation, given that their mother and father leave on a trip pretty much as soon as Rowan gets there.  The children take a while to warm up to her and give her some problems, but nothing she hasn't dealt with before.

What is even more difficult are the strange occurrences around the house. The footsteps she hears above her room at night, even though she's on the top floor. A locked door that she didn't lock. A disappearing key. And the difficulties of the high-tech system for monitoring and controlling everything in the house doesn't help either.

Ware keeps you guessing, throwing out plausible red herrings over and over again. Who wants Rowan out of the picture? It's not what you think. At least it isn't what I thought! I was totally blindsided by several twists.  And that just added to the enjoyment.

If I have one complaint it is that I didn't think the technique of the whole story being told through letters written to a lawyer was necessary. It did make for a unique wrap up at the end, I guess, so no biggie.

I enjoyed The Death of Mrs. Westaway, also by Ware, a lot. But The Turn of the Key was even better. Highly recommended to thriller fans.

Published by Gallery/Scout, August 6, 2019
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
352 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Audiobook Review: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate book cover and review
Before We Were Yours is an interesting story, both heartbreaking and heartwarming.

Dual perspective is used very effectively, with our first narrator being Rill, beginning in 1939 when she was twelve years old. Rill is put in charge of her four younger siblings when her mother has difficulty delivering her sixth child and must be taken to the hospital. Rill and her family live on a riverboat traveling up and down the Mississippi trying to survive. They are "river gypsies." While her parents are gone, all five children are taken away to a boarding house serving as an orphanage. They are told they will see their parents soon, but that is a lie.

The second perspective is Avery Stafford, a woman who is about to have it all. She is a successful lawyer who is engaged to be married. The wedding promises to be one of South Carolina's most lavish affairs. We are in the present day, and Avery's father, the senator, is grooming Avery to be his replacement if he must retire. Avery is on a political outing with her father when she meets an old woman in a nursing home named May. When May tells Avery she knows her grandmother, Judy, Avery thinks she must be confused. May simply didn't associate with the kind of people that Judy Stafford did. And Grandma Judy is now in a nursing home suffering from Alzheimer's, so she isn't much help.

Avery is compelled to find out why May thinks she knows Judy. As we are exposed to the absurdly harsh and unjust treatment Rill and her siblings are subjected to, we follow Avery as she secretly works to uncover her family's hidden past, revelations that will possibly redefine all of Avery's hopes and dreams for her future.

Before We Were Yours moves at a pretty slow pace and drags even more in the middle, but the story that unfolds is so unbelievable that you can't stop reading. Because it is based on true events, it is even more fascinating.

Each perspective is narrated by a different person, and both of them read too slowly for my taste. It is a story from the South, so the slow, southern drawl was appropriate, I guess, but I'm too impatient. I had to speed it up.

Overall, Before We Were Yours is a worthwhile read, and I would definitely recommend it. Depending on your taste, you may want to choose to read it rather than listen, but either way, you will enjoy the experience.

Published by Ballentine, 2017, Random House Audio, 2018
Audiobook obtained from the library
352 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Book Review: The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

Oh man, The Escape Room was a great thriller that tied me up in knots.

Our narrator is Sara, a struggling recent college graduate desperate to get a job in the lucrative world of corporate banking. She meets a man, Vincent, in an elevator, and all her dreams come true.

We hear Sara's story from the past, as she learns the ropes working with Vincent and a team of three other people. They aren't nice. But Sara works hard and is indoctrinated into this very decadent, cutthroat world.

The second point-of-view is from the present, and the four team members (without Sara) are asked to participate in an escape room scenario on an elevator. Participation is not optional (it never is when it comes to their company.) They soon realize that this is no ordinary escape room game. The stakes are high -- life and death.

As they are slowly given clues and try to survive under the harshest of circumstances, the reader is drawn into their dilemma. Even though these characters aren't very likable, surely they don't deserve this? Or maybe they do...

I loved the way The Escape Room was written. I didn't really figure anything out until close to the end. Sara's story is compelling, as we see her slowly realize the sacrifices she must make in order to keep her job and her lifestyle. And the sacrifices are huge.

The banking industry is painted in a pretty awful light, and I have no way of knowing how accurate that description is. But it is fascinating.

If I have one complaint, it was a bit too much repetition at times, I guess for dramatic effect.  An example is how many times one character's scars were mentioned. Really a minor complaint that didn't affect my enjoyment.

I loved The Escape Room and will be recommending it to all of my family and friends!

Published by St. Martin's, July 30, 2019
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
368 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Monday, July 22, 2019

Book Review: Wilder Girls by Rory Power

I'm not really sure what the title Wilder Girls refers to unless it's the wild ride this book takes you on!

There's an all-girls boarding school on an island and all of the people on the island succumbed to an illness about 18 months ago. Many of them are dead. There are only two adults left. Not only have the humans been attacked, but the animals and plants are all bizarrely affected -- growing larger and stronger.

A few girls are assigned to leave their fenced enclosure to go get supplies when they are delivered. Hetty has always been a lookout on the roof protecting the grounds with guns, but she has been elected to be one of the girls that go to get the supplies. It is dangerous, but she learns a lot by leaving the grounds -- some of it not very good. Then Hetty's best friend, Byatt, gets sick and disappears. Hetty will do anything to find out where they have taken Byatt.

First of all, the world-building is really good -- unique, deadly, and utterly terrifying. Secondly, the build-up of tension, from so many directions really sucks you in. The characters are somewhat mysterious. I'm not sure if that's intentional (I suspect it is), but I have questions about some of the motivations and decisions that were made.

Of course, we don't get much closure, although this episode ends at a good spot. Throughout the entire book, the situation seems hopeless, and in the end, I still didn't have much hope. The more I read, the faster I read, and that's a good thing. I think this is going to be a popular book with teens, and it has been well-received by the professionals. I'm "all-in" for the sequel. Write fast Rory Power! I haven't read Lord of the Flies (I should since my son says it's the only book he read for school that he enjoyed), but Wilder Girls has been compared to a female Lord of the Flies. Go for it.

Published by Delacorte, July 9, 2019
eBook obtained from the library
368 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Book Review: Layover, by David Bell

Layover, by David Bell book cover and review
Very mysterious, intriguing, and tense at times, Layover was a bit of a disappointment in the end.

Joshua travels for his job all the time. While waiting for a flight, he meets Morgan, a mysterious woman for whom he feels an immediate connection. This has never happened before. They have a drink, she kisses him, and states that she will never see him again. Well, we know that's not true...

Joshua knows Morgan is on a flight to Nashville, so he abruptly changes his plans and gets a seat on her flight. He has also seen stories about Morgan being a missing person. But when he confronts her, she acts as though she's never seen him, and he has to give up or be thrown off the plane. Confused, he decides to give up. But then, Morgan contacts him again.

So Joshua is dragged into the intrigue that is Morgan. She gives him part of her story but continues to abandon him, and he continues to try to find her and figure out how he can help her. It makes for a good story and pulls you in, wondering why Morgan is hiding and running.

A parallel story is our detective who is searching for a missing businessman. These stories eventually overlap, and things become even more confusing for Josh.

Layover kept my interest, but I didn't find it "unputdownable." It is well written and the characters are well developed. One of my favorite characters is Josh's dad (who he works for). I loved that he was understanding and supportive. There are some surprises in the end, but even with that, I just felt "meh." I'm not sure why Layover just fizzled out for me, but it did.

Recommendations? Like I said, I was entertained and the pace was pretty good. It was not a waste of time, and perhaps others will get a bigger impact from the ending. So yes--give Layover a go.

Published by Berkley, July 2, 2019
eARC obtained from Edelweiss and NetGalley
416 pages

Rating: 4/5

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