Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

3.5 stars Fiction

There were times that I found myself absorbed into the lives of these two sisters, that I took a break from my own life, sat down and became a part of theirs.  This book covered a lot time and the issues were staggering.  They led an exciting and eventful trail as they made their way through life.

I listened to this book on audio and as I tried to go about my day, I found myself stopping to listen to it.  It was no longer, just something to listen to, but something I had to hear. 

The novel began when these sisters were young, their future had endless possibilities.  Unfortunately, their mother thought differently, and boy, did she irritate me.  Each sister tells us their story and about how each day brought new challenges and adventures into their lives. 

I liked how each sister’s life was different.  Between the two of them, they addressed almost every important issue that women face. I thought that this made their lives interesting.  I enjoyed how the girls cared for one another even though they were so different from one another.  This book is rather long and I feel that it could’ve been shorter and still effectively deliver the same message. 3.5 stars

All The Forgivenesses by Elizabeth Hardinger

5 stars Historical Fiction

I didn’t want this book to end because I had fallen hard for these characters.  Times were hard in the Appalachian Hills of Kentucky, at the turn of the century, but as I turned the pages of this book, I wanted/needed Bertie to get a break. 

Bertie and Timmy liked to play hide-and-go-seek together until the day, little Timmy wedged himself into a tight spot and couldn’t get out.  Every day, Bertie is haunted by that day when her brother Timmy died.  As if that wasn’t enough, her mother now has basically, given-up-on-life and her father is a drunk who comes and goes as he please.  Add to that, four siblings and you have a lot of responsibility and no adult in charge.

In walks, tired Bertie.  She’s 15 now, and if helping running the homestead wasn’t enough to tire her out, add a new neighbor to her busy life, who doesn’t know what Bertie is actually experiencing.  I wanted to give Bertie a break but the situations for Bertie were on a downward spiral. When would they stop?

When her older brothers start to come up with a plan, I started to have hope, I really did. Life is hard as the family moves about and tries to make the best of the situation.  The highs and the lows kept me going and I loved this family. Oh, Bertie!  You knew you had to be strong, you hid your feelings but I knew how you felt.  What a fantastic book! 

Gold Digger: The Remarkable Baby Doe Tabor by Rebecca Rosenberg

4 stars Historical Fiction

I read this book for book club otherwise I don’t think I would have picked it up.  From reading the title, I expected a more somber novel about the gold-rush era, not the adventurous, dashy story that I read.  Baby Doe gave this era, something to talk about. 

I knew nothing about Baby Doe before picking up this novel.  Now, after reading this novel, I want to read more about her to hear the whole story.

The novel begins with Baby Doe traveling with her new husband Harvey to Colorado, in the late 1800’s, as Harvey is going to manage a mine that his father owns.  Baby Doe has plans of her own, to send money back to her parents to help them get by.  Her husband ends up not being as business smart as they thought and Baby Doe ends up helping him out with the business which I feel is an important part to who she ends up becoming.

The mine becomes the central part of the story with the individuals who work in it and their families also.  Baby Doe becomes a working woman, yet some men are drawn to her beauty and don’t take her seriously.  She’s a smart, determined individual who knows more than you think.    

This was a fast-paced story what once I started, I couldn’t quit.  There were numerous times while reading this story, I found myself talking out loud, reacting to the other characters as they conversed with Baby Doe.  I laughed a few times and there were even some harsh words spoken, for I thought they were being very deceitful, given the circumstances.  Baby Doe’s story is definitely a story that you need to read.   

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

4 stars Historical Fiction

I liked this novel more than I liked To Kill a Mockingbird which is supposed to be the first book in this series. I think that’s because I understood the characters more and their actions and attitudes seemed to fit them. I read this book for book club, and listening to the discussions surrounding this book, it was interesting to hear the different viewpoints on the topics that we covered.

Jean Louise has returned to her hometown again from New York and I feel that she has changed and her views are more open. When Henry (a.k.a. Hank) picks her up, she is surprised that her father is not there but she enjoys Henry’s kiss. I think she enjoys how Henry tends to her. Henry wants to marry her and playfully and seriously, he asks for her hand in marriage, for which Jean Louise turns him down, again and again. Jean Louise likes her independence and N.Y living. Why would she leave that to come back here to live the simple life in Maycomb, AL? She likes Henry but love is a different story.

While back in Maycomb, Jean Louise gets lost between the present and past many times. She enjoys revisiting her memories of growing up in Maycomb and then facing, the current Maycomb, which has changed some over the years. Whether that change is for the better, is a matter of opinion. I enjoyed Jean Louise’s flashbacks and a few of them brought back memories of my own. Her revival preacher story and Jean Louise’s first dance were great stories and I was glad that she shared them.

There are racial remarks throughout the novel. They are subtle and quick, and if you didn’t stop and think about them, you might just miss them. The world around this small town is changing and whether Maycomb is changing too or wants to change, is something to consider as you read the novel.

I started to feel sorry for Jean Louise as I read. She had matured over the years and returned home to be confused. The title and the ending of the book, sealed the book for me. Jean Louise had it all along, she just needed to be told.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

4.5 stars Historical Fiction

I listened to this novel as I painted our fence in the backyard.  This small, section of fence should have taken just a few hours but when I finally made my way back inside, I realized that my morning was gone and I was working into the afternoon.  I know for a fact that I’d stopped a few times while painting, as I realized that I had become so involved in the story, that I couldn’t paint and listen at the same time.  I guess I had done more reading than painting today but at least the fence was done.    

I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  This was a true story.  These individuals were young teens, young men being treated brutally, while everyone turned their backs on them.

As these individuals told their stories, I kept reminding myself that this story had really occurred.  This was supposed to be a reform school, a place where change occurs for the better. The boys were at Nickel Academy either because they were orphans or because of their behavior. They didn’t expect to be someone’s target, they didn’t deserve the harsh punishment and the brutality that they received.  They most certainly didn’t deserve death.

As I listened, I wondered how much longer the people in charge could continue this practice and get-away with it?  Wasn’t there any checks and balances along the way?  I cringed to think that these individuals would take their authority further and push the envelope.  It angered and frustrated me that some individuals feel they have the right to behave this way to anyone or anything. 

I feel that it’s a powerful book, a book that allows their story to be told but now, I have more questions after reading this book, than I did when I first started.  4.5 stars

The Devil’s Revolver by V.S. McGrath

4.5 stars Fantasy/Western

This was better than I imagined.  I loved the cover and that is what sold me on reading it.  The story is part fantasy and part western but the story is total enjoyment as Hettie tries to save her little sister, Abby.  Bonded with Diablo (a.k.a the Devil’s Revolver) Hettie unfortunately is walking into many situations blindly.  Her accuracy holding a firearm is one talent she can count on and one that she uses to her advantage.

I like how Hettie takes matters into her own hands.  She doesn’t wait around and hope for someone to help her out and she doesn’t whine, she moves.  She almost moves too fast, sometimes.  She immediately goes after Abby.  When she sees Ling in trouble, she steps in.  She’s not afraid of speaking her mind to anyone, she is herself. When bonded with Diablo, the unknown of what has occurred doesn’t shake her, she just continues on. 

With magic and loaded weapons, Hettie learns the truth behind Diablo and the price this demonic weapon carries. This was a high energy read for read and the magical aspects of the novel were entertaining.  I can’t wait to read what happens in the next novel. 4.5 stars

I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley and IBPA in exchange for an honest review. 

Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven

4.5 stars Historical Fiction

Velva Jean’s daddy often took off, leaving his family wondering when he’d return.  Later, he’d walk back through the door, as if he’d just stepped outside for a break, and the days and the months that he’d been gone, you’d think they were just all your imagination.  When their mama died, the kids were at a loss, for their daddy was out somewhere.  When he got done wandering, he would discover that his wife had died and the letter that he had written to his wife, the one that she kept reading after he left, is what his children believe caused her death.

I enjoyed this novel as I followed along beside Velva Jean as she explored and grew-up in Sleepy Gap, North Carolina during the 1930’s. Velva Jean had dreams of singing in the Grand Ole Opry and considering her situation, I was impressed with this dream.  With her mama, gone and her daddy, a no-show, Velva Jean and her sibling were taken in by her grandparents. 

I think the grandparents did the best they could and I had to laugh when they sent two of the kids off to a bootlegger.  This incident lands the kids in jail which changes them forever on many levels.  The kids feel they have now crossed the fence from being “good” kids, they’ve met some new people, they seen new sights, and they’ve been arrested.

I liked the flow of this book.  It wasn’t an intense, action-packed novel but it had a calm, even-flow pace to it. It had the pace that I would think living in the mountains would have.  There was a singing competition that stirs things up as Velva Jean wants to compete, religion comes into the picture as Velva Jean started to worry about future, and it gets interesting when Velva Jean begins to mature and she runs into a fellow from her past.

I’m going to look into the other books in this series and I like books about the Appalachian Mountains and I enjoyed this novel. 

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

4.5 stars Historical Fiction

I was surprised how much I liked listening to this novel.  It felt dark and as the story continued, I started to have feelings for the woman who was just waiting for her sentence to be carried out. 

The farmer’s wife was not too happy to have this prisoner in her house but she had no choice.  They choose their house and now, they had to deal with it.  Agnes was not supposed to be there long, for she was sentenced to death for her crime.  When they brought Agnes, I loved the way the wife took charge over the situation.  She was not having this prisoner contaminate her house and the guards upset her household.  She seemed strong and determined, as she looked over the prisoner that was before her. 

As the story progressed, the characters seemed to transform.  We hear the truth and I began to have a change of heart.   Did Agnes really commit the crime, that they said she did?  That’s the question that really needs to be answered here.

I liked the darkness of the novel and how the story progressed.  She was a prisoner yet it there were times, I couldn’t see it and then, we had to remember what they said happened.   There was something about how the story was written, for when I listened to it, the words just flowed out and the images were right beside them.

I really wished that I would have read this novel instead of listened to it as I had a hard time with the audio.  I thought the main character was flirty.  Why?  I thought the narrator’s voice had an accent which translated to the main character and in this dark novel, it didn’t sit well with me considering her situation.  It’s just me, but this effected how I felt emotionally towards the characters too.  I would like to reread this novel in the future to hopefully get more connected with the characters.   A great story!

Keeping Lucy

4.5 stars Historical Fiction

This was a terrific novel. At first, it seemed that Ginny living the perfect life. She stayed at home and cared for her son, Peyton while her husband provided for the family. As an attorney, working with his father, it seemed to me that they had a lot of things going for them. It wasn’t until the birth of Lucy that we really the truth.

The year was 1969 and things were winding down after her baby shower. It wasn’t punch that had soaked the couch where Ginny had sat and now, here she was, in the hospital, with a doctor staring down at her. Ginny couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of the doctor and the nurse. A girl? They’re sorry? She has a condition? Mongoloid? Lucy wanted her daughter and she wanted her now! Where was her husband? Ginny struggles to stay awake, the anesthesia takes over and she falls asleep,

When she finally awakens, Ginny wants to see her baby and her husband but it’s not time yet and I begin to get nervous as they tell Ginny to get more sleep and off to dreamland she goes. Hours later, when they feel it’s time, her husband and her father-in-law inform Ginny that the baby has been moved to a school where they will love and care for her. The doctor feels that the baby could have problems in the future so this is what they have done. Ginny wants to get the baby BUT it’s too late.

Fast forward to 1971, the family dynamics have changed, they’re going through the motions. Ginny hasn’t forgotten her baby and I can feel this void in her life. Her husband doesn’t talk about and their son doesn’t even know about his younger sister. Ab is working longer and is spending more time away from home, and now Peyton doesn’t bother asking when his father will be home. Ginny lives for Peyton and being a good wife. When she receives a phone call from her best friend Marsha, she becomes the person, I felt she was meant to be.

Marsha calls and informs Ginny about a reporter who went undercover at Willowridge. The same school that Ginny’s father-in-law put her infant daughter in years ago. When Ginny reads the papers, she’s hopeful that she’ll be united with her daughter with her husband’s help but that’s short-lived, after she talks to her husband.

Just like Ginny, I felt that her husband would read the papers and they would go rescue their daughter but the story is complicated. After reading the papers, Ginny just wants her daughter safe. I didn’t think she had it in her but with the help of Marsha, these two women lean against one another to do what they feel is best for Ginny’s children.

I enjoyed how the author showed us more of Ginny’s life, how she met her husband, and how this flowed into the present day. It showed a complete picture and a great flow. Ginny and Marsha’s relationship was fantastic and I liked how they figured things out along their journey. Peyton wasn’t a secondary character in this novel but an important one which I thought was needed.

I really enjoyed this novel, it was sad at times and it made my skin crawl and other times, it made me smile as I felt hope. The only problem I had with the novel was the last couple scenes in the novel. These scenes were a bit too much for me considering everything that had happened in the novel. 4.5 stars

I won a copy of this novel from St. Martin’s Press and Goodreads Giveaway. Thank you. This review was my own opinion.

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (audio)

5 stars Fiction

This was remarkable! I listened to this book on audio and I actually feel sorry for the people who read the book, I really do!  With all the different individuals in the novel and how they constantly popped in and out of the conversation, I think reading this book would have been confusing to me.  Whatever you do, read this book!  I thought for sure, I was right back in the 70’s and thought I should be playing their record. Are we sure this story is fiction?

I’m not going to rehash the whole story for you, as most of you have already heard it and if you haven’t, the deal is…..if you liked the 70’s music scene, you will enjoy this novel.  It’s got music, friendships, family, passion, drugs, sex (just a bit), insecurities, heartaches, and lots of drama.

It felt as if, the group occurred by accident. They fed off one another and at times, you could feel them pushing and pulling each other away.  They were meant to be together yet at times, they mixed like oil and water.  The sound they created was like no other, for what they played were not just words on paper but feelings that were hard to contain.

I couldn’t wait to get back to this novel once I started it.  As the group struggled, I didn’t cheer for any specific individual, I wanted the whole group to make it through to the top.  I struggled with them through each drink, through each quarrel, and through each pill that was popped and each line that was consumed because I knew that all of these effected the group. And this group, I wanted to succeed. With each success, I was proud and couldn’t wait for the next one. I can’t tell you how many times I had to remind myself that this novel was fiction as I found myself drawn into the story, for I felt with this narration, they each were talking about their past.  Go, Six and Go, Daisy!    

Here is just a taste of the audio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKRB2lAuipY