That’s What Frenemies Are For

If you can make it in this concrete jungle, you can make it anywhere.

Thank you NetGalley and Random House for my complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. 

Pub Date: July 30, 2019 

     Growing up in New Jersey, and receiving a private school education, image was ever present. My parents worked hard to ensure that I maintained a humble personality in the midst of a materialistic world, but that didn’t mean I was oblivious to the charms of wealth. Being so close to that concrete jungle known to most as New York City, I was no stranger to the impact keeping up with the Rockerfellers had on the average person. In a city teeming with life, being somebody meant having a certain address and being in possession of the type of profession that enabled you to spend an unlimited amount of money on….things. 

      Reading, ‘That’s What Frenemies Are For’ by Sophie Littlefield, I nearly felt as though I was home. The entire core of the novel revolves around the dire consequences of desperately wanting to fit in with an elite group of people that, in all actuality, is full of insecure individuals competing to have the top title. Julia Summers had what she thought was the perfect life……how many times does this type of novel start off with a seemingly strong female character insisting that she has it all. Naturally, not ver far into the plot, Julia discovers that her life is not nearly as picture perfect as she’d thought it was. In addition to her husband working longer hours in the face of rumors circulating that all is not as ‘above board’ as it should be within his line of work, Julia is feeling left out of the popularity ring after a summer spent in solitude in the city. 

     Becoming irrelevant in a place like New York is the greatest fear that the women in this novel have, and Julia is determined to claw her way back up to the top of the social pyramid. But she ends up making a rookie mistake that the wealthiest of people tend to make all too frequently- she assumes that anyone whose budget rings in at a certain number is vulnerable and eager to receive help from the elite. Befriending Tatum, a young woman who appears to be having immense difficulty building her brand as a spin instructor at a top fitness club in the city, seems the perfect ‘win-win’ situation for Julia. Her friends returned from the Hamptons with a frustrating tendency of leaving her out of social outings, and Julia knows that she must do something drastic to be considered worthy of emulating once again. Being responsible for launching the success of Tatum, Julia is convinced, is going to be her golden ticket back into the upper crust. Yet, as she takes Tatum under her wing, Julia begins to notice that perhaps Tatum isn’t nearly as vulnerable as she’d initially believed her to be. Furthermore, the amount of gossip spreading about her husband and finances appears to be multiplying instead of receding. 

     Littlefield does a brilliant job inviting the reader to have exclusive insight into what it means to be on top. You’ll find yourself rooting for Julia, even as she so clearly has her priorities all mixed up. Out July 30th, ‘That’s What Frenemies Are For’, the reader will be reminded of what happens when you underestimate the underdog.

Rochelle Weinstein Subtly Stuns

The story that makes you wait to love it is the story truly worth loving.


Thank you to NetGalley for this complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review. 

Pub Date: October 15, 2019

     This is the first novel by Rochelle Weinstein that I’ve read, and I’m still attempting to decide how I feel about it. ‘This Is Not How It Ends’ is the kind of tale that leads the reader to contemplate their own love stories. Haven’t we all latched onto a significant other whom we believed was the perfect fit for us at the time, only to discover that perhaps we’d judged the scenario all wrong? The predicament that Charlotte finds herself in is a love story as old as time- the love triangle. Phillip, the seemingly perfect husband in waiting, has been eclipsed by his dearest friend, Ben. Perhaps most perplexing of all is the fact that Charlotte continuously is pushed in Ben’s direction by her fiancé. 

     At the start, this is a book that toggles between two time frames, taking the reader through the process of the before and after of locating true love. But what if true love is ignited between someone whom you hadn’t intended to fall in love with? What happens when the man of your dreams turns into precisely that- someone you should only have ever been with in your dreams in the first place? Philip and Charlotte have a whirlwind romance that rapidly leads to her uprooting her entire life to follow him to Florida. She, the quiet and literary English teacher, paired with a man who appears larger than life to those around him. Rarely in the same place for any given length of time, Philip leaves Charlotte to her own devices and her own devices leads her directly to Ben. 

     Weinstein coaxes the reader into a pregnant pause, into an elongated moment where we ponder the trajectory of our own love lives. What would have happened if we’d stayed with the person whose love morphed into an unrecognizable nightmare? Or, slightly more terrifying, what if we had rocked the boat of fate and left the comfort of complacency for something……stronger? The potential for being truly brilliant, there was something lacking in the delivery of the plot in the first half of the novel that proceeds to dissipate during the second half. Overall, it’s a book I would recommend with the caution that it’s not one of those narratives that hooks you directly from the start. Instead, you must patiently give the novel by Weinstein time to utterly charm you. 

Happy Pub Date to ‘How To Not Die Alone’!

In the same ranks as ‘Elinor Oliphant Is Completely Fine’, the reader will find themselves inexplicably drawn to this story.

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Group Putnam for my complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

Pub Date: May 28, 2019

     ‘How Not To Die Alone’ by Richard Roper is the type of novel that will pull at your heartstrings. There is a delicately brilliant way in which Roper exposes the deepest fear of the majority of humans. At the end of the day, regardless of the lies we might tell ourselves and others, we are afraid of dying alone. Yet, simultaneously, we have a paranoia of being accepted and, therefore, an inability of making the appropriate type of connections. I went into this novel hardly knowing what to expect, but as you get to know Andrew, you are hard pressed to feel anything towards him besides love. 

     Reminiscent of ‘Elinor Oliphant Is Completely Fine’, the reader is presented with a flawed and somewhat delusional narrator who is merely trying to rid himself of his lonely as he navigates life. It hardly seems to be a coincidence that Roper places Andrew into a profession that forces his character to question both humanity and mortality on a regular basis. When your profession is to pick up the pieces of the lives of those who have perished completely alone, it only serves to exacerbate your own fear that you will find yourself in a similar situation. Andrew chooses to feed himself and those around him lies about his happiness to cover up the abysmal truth- that he, in fact, has nobody. 

     But then Peggy comes along, an individual struggling with her own form of lonely. Married to a man who puts a bottle of alcohol before her every single time, she seems to take a job alongside Andrew as a last ditch effort to figure it all out. The subsequent friendship Andrew and Peggy form results in them both questioning and rearranging everything. 

     Roper’s writing is refreshing and beautifully strung together. The reader will find it impossible to put the book down and will also enter into their own inner dialogue about what it truly means to be happy in this one life we are given. 

Paris By The Book

Some stories just bring you back to a time and a place unbelievably dear to your heart.


     Traveling and books have always been meaningful to me. The history of the cities I’ve been too intertwined with the words in novels purchased at bookstores local to the area. When I was seventeen years old, my parents took me to Paris for the second time but this trip was to be a special one because my birthday fell on one of the days we would be in the city of lights. I was unbelievably excited and had a list of landmarks I wanted to visit during our six day stay. We’d come from London, my parents utterly exhausted by the castle itinerary I’d designed there. “If I never see another castle in my life, I’d be a happy man!” My father had stated on a ragged exhale. But I couldn’t hear him over the rush of enthusiasm pulsating through me. I was still so young, adulthood right around the bend but not quite there. Paris was mine for the exploring and I intended to relish every moment. 

     I love books because they take me back to certain memories and periods in my life. I consider myself well traveled; my parents never left me behind and, as a result, these eyes have seen five continents. Words have this amazingly intense ability to take catapult you back into time to a place of serene nostalgia. 

     ‘Paris By The Book’ by Liam Callanan was one of those books for me. As I finished reading this novel, sipping on a strawberry daiquiri at the home of a woman whose on connections to France are phenomenal, I was propelled back to that time we spent in Paris. Similar to Leah, the main character of this novel, I was searching for something that summer in Paris. Both of us were haunted by a better version of ourselves lurking right around the river bend. She also had my dream profession at the time- the owner of an Anglophile bookshop nestled on a cobblestone corner in Paris. Unlike Leah, I didn’t have a husband who’d gone missing or two teenage daughters to take care of, but I could relate to the pull Paris had on her all the same. 

     My twenty-seven year old self also connected to the character of the disappeared husband. Robert, the man Leah had fallen into a loving pattern with, was a writer whose enthusiasm for the craft of writing was often his greatest downfall. Always in search of that perfect story, successfully completing a novel evaded him at every turn. When he disappears, Leah assumes he’s simply gone off in search of inspiration and it wasn’t difficult for me to relate the benefit of travel to a restless writer’s mind. I’ve always personally felt recharged and better prepared to tap into my creative side after a trip abroad. 

     The characters in this book learn things about themselves through the landmarks of Paris and the books on the shelves of their Parisian bookshop. I would recommend this novel to anyone who has been to Paris, who loves the process of being inspired, who values family, and who would enjoy the magic of nostalgia brought on by the pages of a book. I won’t be turning eighteen in Paris this year but, in my mind, Paris is a constant reminder of how far I’ve come and how far I still have to go. 

Honeymoon For One….Anyone?

Deliciously humorous at times while incredibly intimate at others, ‘The Honeymooner’ is one to add to your beach read pile this summer.

**Thank you to NetGalley for my complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest reviews. **

Thank you to NetGalley and Xpresso Book Tours for my complimentary copy of ‘The Honeymooner’ in exchange for my honest review. 

     There’s something delightfully lighthearted about ‘The Honeymooner’ by Melanie Summers and I highly recommend you tuck this into your beach bag for a weekend beach read. If you go into the novel channeling Sophia Kinsella, then you will not be disappointed. ‘The Honeymooner’ catches the eye of the reader as it tells the age old tale of scorned lover learning how to love again while hitting several speed bumps along the way. There’s also the enjoyable addition of two ‘enemies’ falling for one another against their better judgments. 

     Libby thought she had it all, but on her wedding day she is jilted by the seemingly perfect guy whom she was going to have the perfect life with. Deciding, in that moment of ire, to do something entirely unconventional in the name of salvaging her dignity, Libby chooses to still go on the honeymoon she’d planned for them. Besides, known to mix business with pleasure, Libby had already made plans to seal an essential deal while honeymooning. Arriving at the island beach resort without her plus one, Libby sets out to land the business deal that will guarantee her a promotion. She’s not going to even think about the man who jilted her…Libby has determined she has no time for love. No time at all…..

      But Harrison surprises Libby and the two, despite both of their better judgements, find themselves inexplicably drawn to one other. She’s fighting to remind herself that the whole purpose of this honeymoon for one is to secure a major business deal, while Harrison is struggling to remember that he’s a business owner who values tradition over selling out to big corporations. Deliciously endearing, ‘The Honeymooner’ is the perfect compliment to ‘The Unhoneymooners’ by Christina Lauren. Summers does a lovely job making the reader invest in the stories, causing them to laugh out loud at times and grown in frustration at others. 

     I would recommend this novel for a summer vacation, weekend getaway, or early night in. ‘The Honeymooner’ by Melanie Summers is the perfect book for a balmy summer night. 

 

Katherine Reay Presents Us With The Perfect Read For Book Lovers

Perfect Read That Inspires You To Read More and Explore What Makes You….You

Thank you to NetGalley for my complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own. 

      There are some books that grab you right from the opening line, and there are others you have to ease into. Similar to the way a cup of coffee takes awhile to actually caffeinate you, ‘The Printed Letter Bookshop’ gently pulls you in. Around the sixth chapter, something simply clicks and you find yourself dedicated to finishing this literary tale about the eloquence of words and the impact books can have on you. 

     Madeline Cullen has eschewed one course of life for the high paced beat of the legal world. But when her aunt unexpectedly passes away, Madeline is thrust back into the charming memories of her childhood as she inherits her aunt’s home and bookshop. Before life became complicated, Madeline had taken immense pleasure from the messages within books- particularly ones her aunt recommended. Coming back to a town she hasn’t spent much time in since she was a young girl, Madeline is a bit rougher around the edges and a little bit lost. She was supposed to be making partner at a top law firm, NOT running a bookshop that appears to be sinking into the ground financially. 

     Sometimes our journey of self discovery occurs in the most unusual of ways. Madeline is left a list of book recommendations from her deceased aunt and she’s also left with two of her aunt’s closest friends. Janet, beaten down by children who have abandoned her due to a decision she felt she had to make. And Claire- a mom of two who loves her job at the bookshop but wishes she felt a little less disconnected at home. All three of these women have been left with different lists of books to devour, and fairly rapidly they discover a theme to their book lists…leading them to believe that Madeline’s aunt and their dearest friend possibly knew them far better than they ever knew themselves. 

      Katherine Reay delivers a quaint masterpiece about the ability a book can have on a person’s soul. Known for her romantic novels modeled off the land of Jane Austen, ‘The Printed Letter Bookshop’ is the perfect fit for anyone who enjoys books, Austen, or simply a reminder that sometimes all you need is a little push in the right direction to find your way in the dark

‘All The Flowers In Paris’ by Sarah Jio Doesn’t Fail To Impress

A sweepingly eloquent historical novel intertwines with present day to create a masterpiece of a novel.

* Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for this complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review. *

‘All The Flowers In Paris’ by Sarah Jio

Pub Date: August 13, 2019

5/5

Perseverance is a central theme in this sweepingly eloquent novel by Sarah Jio. ‘All The Flowers In Paris’, out August 13th, tells the story of the power of love, even in the face of abject terror and misery. Hauntingly beautiful, the reader will experience a dual tale of love and loss as we move between present day and Nazi occupied territory. The reader will easily be taken in by the heartbreaking elements of raw emotion mingling with seeds of hope. 

     Two women living in two different time periods have suffered immeasurably and are forced to try and cope with their newfound realities. For Caroline, the American divorcee, this proves to be a frustratingly impossible task for her to achieve because, when the reader initially encounters her, we learn that Caroline suffers from acute memory loss due to an accident she’s recently been in. Glimpses into Caroline’s past, one in which she’s attempting to piece back together, reveal that she has suffered in ways that make it difficult for her to not remain paralyzed by her own grief. Yet, it is the mystery of Celine that will eventually resonate with her. 

     Celine haunts the halls of the Paris apartment Caroline is now occupying. A woman who considered herself French and not Jewish, and the daughter of a local flourist, Celine is quickly targeted by one Nazi solider in particular. During the war, Nazi soldiers saw it as in their best interests to take what they wanted from French women. Torn away from her father, Celine’s sole consolation is that her daughter, Cosi, managed to escape to the apartment with her. As the sun continues to rise and set each day, Celine begins to lose all hope that they will be found, and starts to believe she will never be rescued from this life of misery where she’s playing a German hausfrau to an irate German soldier. Celine’s story mingles with her daughter’s story, in the form of post cards and journal entries left behind, which  just might be the necessary key to unlock some of Caroline’s insecurities. 

Perfect for fans of ‘The Age of Light’ and ‘The Room In Rue Amelie’, ‘All The Flowers In Paris’ by Sarah Jio, is impactful and essential to preventing us from ever truly forgetting what humanity proved themselves capable of during World War II. It serves to remind us that, while tragedy definitely reshapes us, it doesn’t have to be the end of ‘us’ as we know it. A must pick up summer read this year.  

Cozy Weekend Reads

Two summer releases you’ll want to cozy up on the couch with on a Sunday afternoon…coffee mug in hand of course!

*Thank you NetGalley for my complimentary copies of ‘The Bookshop of The Broken Hearted’ and ‘Love At The Shore’ in exchange for my honest reviews.*

The Bookshop of The Broken Hearted’ by Robert Hillman

Pub Date: July 11, 2019

5/5

An unlikely combination would be the first description that comes to mind when you encounter Tom Hope and Hannah Babel. Tom, a young and forlorn Australian farmer who has walked away from all thoughts of love, becomes acquainted with a quirky Hungarian woman whose hair is starting to gray, The moment he steps into her bookshop, the first shop to sell books in the small town of Hometown, there’s a shift in the air and a sense that his fate is about to be forever changed. 

     What Tom mistakes as quirkiness in Hannah is actually a shattered heart and a soul struggling to be resilient in the face of all that she’s endured. A survivor of Auschwitz, Hannah recollects on a daily basis all that she was forced to leave behind when she made her journey to Australia from a Europe she no longer recognized. Hillman masterfully crafts a tale of lost love, the pursuit of redemption, and the magic of human connection. All the while, Hannah’s bookshop serves as the glue that holds the fabric of all their lives together. 

     A must read for those who loved ‘The Nightingale’ and ‘The Library of Lost Things’. This is an innovative story that pushes the reader to contemplate human nature- both the harm that humans are capable of inflicting on one another as well as the hope they are equally capable of instilling. 

Love At The Shore by Teri Wilson

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

3.5/5

Anyone who adores the Hallmark Channel will dive happily right into this book. A delightful summer romance, ‘Love At The Shore’ by Teri Wilson tells the story of a single mom with two kids and a writing career to establish. Having written one bestseller, Jenna is concerned that she’ll turn into a one hit wonder if she doesn’t find a quiet place to write her second novel. What better place to go to write than the shore? Leaving Savannah in her rear view mirror, Jenna and her kids rent half of a house on Tybee Island for the summer- where Jenna is confident she will get quality writing time in while her two kids splash and play at the summer camp nearby. 

     Lucas was never part of the bargain, and Jenna quickly discovers that her handsome neighbor is a troublesome distraction. Seemingly carefree, Lucas spends his days playing with his dog, surfing, strumming his guitar, and smacking around a volleyball. While Jenna supposes it’s nice to have the luxury to relax, she is on a deadline and he makes far too much noise. Additionally, why does he keep insisting on befriending her and her kids? From Lucas’s perspective, Jenna is the woman next door who won’t go away. He doesn’t want to like her but she and her children are just so charming!

      Don’t expect the same type of wit and eloquence that you might find in a work of literary fiction. This romantic heart warmer sets out to charm you on a cozy Sunday afternoon and it does precisely that. After you read the book, you can also enjoy the movie which comes out the weekend before this books June 11th release date. 

‘Montauk’ by Nicola Harrison Dazzles

What do you do when you’ve had enough? ‘Montauk’ digs deep into this question in an effort to provide an answer.

**Thank you to NetGalley and St.Martin’s Press for my complimentary advanced copy of ‘Montauk’ in exchange for my honest review.’

Sweeping, intoxicating, demanding. All three of these adjectives could be used to describe the reading experience I had with this book. Drawn to each chapter, pulled in by every word, and utterly captivated by both plot and characters; I genuinely cannot rave about Montauk by Nicola Harrison enough. This book has all the elements of the perfect summer read, the story itself sticking to you like glue long after you’ve finished reading your copy. An emotional roller coaster, Harrison taps into the age old question: What do you do when you’ve had enough? 

     ‘Montauk’ pushes many envelopes and, as a woman, I particularly felt connected to the plot and subplot because Harrison is reminding us of all the limitations placed on women by a society driven by patriarchy. Set in the late 1930s, right on the edge of the humanity hurtling into the chaos and despair that was World War II, we are introduced to a world of elitism. Society wives vacationing and taking their summers in the up and coming town of Montauk while their husbands seemingly toil away in the city and make investment moves that they believe will shape the future. 

     Through the main character, however, we are bluntly reminded that the edges of elitism are undeniably soiled. Desperate to fill the endless hours of their days, the high end women of this novel take pleasure in tearing down and belittling the locals who, not only are the heart of Montauk, but also are responsible for ensuring that all is peachy for the rich. Meanwhile, while the wives tan by the pool and gossip at society functions, their husbands are in the city paying no mind to respecting their marriages. It doesn’t matter, though, whether or not these society women are, deep down, suffering from the reality of their circumstances. Life must continue on and an image must be maintained- infidelity can surely be fixed with a swipe of lipstick and a shiny pair of pumps. Not so, however, for Beatrice. 

     On a daily basis, Beatrice is torn between the life she now has and the life that could have been. Aspirations to do something more intellectual with her life, Beatrice had been studying literature at Vassar when her brother died and the trajectory of her life changed indefinitely. Dropping out of school to deal with her grief, she meets Harry, marries him, and suddenly her life becomes a whirlwind of events in the city and summering in Newport or the Hamptons. She’d come to accept her fate, even as she struggles to fit into the role of society wife when she doesn’t even have children to care for.

In Montauk, Beatrice is presented with the greatest gift of all. The gift of a second chance. The gift of realizing that she’s had enough. She no longer wants to be the perfect wife in a loveless marriage with an empty womb. Beatrice wants to live, even if it means making her life messy. ‘Montauk’ by Nicola Harrison is Beatrice’s journey on the path of coming to terms with herself when enough is enough. I dare you to not be moved by this emotionally charged story and I challenge you to not reflect on your own life and decisions as you effortlessly root for Beatrice to find a way to belong only to herself. 

The Farm by Joanne Ramos

Unsettlingly dazzling, this might be one of the top reads of 2019.

      Some books are meant to be burned through quickly, fingers excitedly flipping pages over so that you can devour the next set of words. Others only consume a tiny fraction of your brain, making it both possible and necessary for you to have two or three other novels going at the same time. But then there are the books that are so powerfully unsettling, you have to carefully consider each line, each paragraph, each chapter. This is how I felt while reading ‘The Farm’. 

      Initially, my reflections on the novel were akin to how I felt about ‘The Handmaiden’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood. A combination of the book’s title and the opening chapters have you wondering what type of catastrophe is going to come sailing in, hurtling the plot into a dystopian future. Fairly quickly, however, you realize that you’re reading a book of an entirely different nature. You are inexplicably drawn to all of the characters, despite the fact that you are only allowed snapshots of their true personalities, and your heart aches for each and every one- even the women in the story who are so clearly setting forth a series of actions for personal gain. 

     On the surface, this is a book revolving around fertility. Who has the ability to get pregnant verses who doesn’t. Peel back a layer and the reader is presented with a far darker portrayal of fertility being fueled by money and power. Golden Oaks is a facility that specializes in surrogacy, where clients can pay exorbitant prices to have a ‘Host’ carry a baby for them to full term. Suddenly, you are asked to contemplate how much of the surrogacy process has become eerily similar to a factory production line. There’s a group of people designing and controlling the product and then there is the assembly line of people being used to produce that product. If there’s any type of malfunction found within the product itself, it’s destroyed- with or without the consent of the person who is producing it. Babies, in this tale, have become a high end commodity which Golden Oaks prides themselves on being able to deliver. 

      Just like a factory, the fertility facility exploits immigrants- in this case Fillippinas, Mexicans, Poles. Jane, for example, is a young Fillippina woman who is frustrated by how little income she has accrued working as a nanny and in retirement homes. She sees the lavish facility that is Golden Oaks and the fat paycheck waiting for her upon delivery as a beacon of hope. Jane wants to make a better life for herself in America with her infant daughter but doesn’t have the ways or means to do so. Mae, the seemingly flawless and powerful woman overseeing Golden Oaks, knows exactly which pressure points to hit on Jane and the other hosts to ensure they fall into line. And then there’s the revelation that some of the clients are using Golden Oaks, not because they can’t get pregnant, but because they don’t want to. While they weekend in the Hamptons and dine in the city, these clients can breezily take part in the pregnancy journey via Skype without having to worry about handling the messier aspects. 

     Race, fertility, class, and gender are all tropes that play a role in this novel that leaves you feeling sucker punched at the close of every chapter. Uncomfortable, unsettling, and yet unbelievably powerful. ‘The Farm’ by Joanne Ramos has you recoiling and then immediately turning back to face both it and the subtly dark plot lurking right beneath the surface of a cheery veneer. It’s a thought provoking game changer that people of all ages, gender, and races should pick up and give a painstaking read in 2019.