Friday, July 21, 2017

Review: The Address

The Address
by Fiona Davis

Why did you choose this book? The synopsis was intriguing and so was the cover
When did you read this book? Jul 2017
Who should read this book? Readers of historical fiction; particularly those who love novels set in NYC
Source: Penguin First To Read
Here is a synopsis of The Address from Penguin First To Read
My Rating: ☆☆☆☆ -  4 Stars

Fiona Davis, author of The Dollhouse, returns with a compelling novel about the thin lines between love and loss, success and ruin, passion and madness, all hidden behind the walls of The Dakota—New York City’s most famous residence.

After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she’d make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility—no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one’s station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else...and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children.

In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey’s grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won’t see a dime of the Camden family’s substantial estate. Instead, her “cousin” Melinda—Camden’s biological great-granddaughter—will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda’s vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in...and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island.

One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages—for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City—and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side’s gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich—and often tragic—as The Dakota’s can’t hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden—and the woman who killed him—on its head.

With rich historical detail, nuanced characters, and gorgeous prose, Fiona Davis once again delivers a compulsively readable novel that peels back the layers of not only a famed institution, but the lives—and lies—of the beating hearts within.

My Review

I was attracted to this one because I’ve heard good things about the author’s previous work and both the cover and the synopsis pulled me in. When I had the chance to get an advance copy through the Penguin First To Read program, I grabbed it!

The story is set in The Dakota, the building famous for being the residence of John Lennon at the time of his murder outside the building. The main characters are young women living in the building 100 years apart, and the story alternates between these time periods. Sara Smythe is a young English woman who immigrates to the US to become ‘managerette’ of the building when it opens and hoping for a better life than she could have in England. Her life gets messy as she gets closer to Theodore Camden, the architect who resides in the building as he oversees the opening.

Bailey Camden is a young woman who is indirectly related to the Camden family. Her grandfather was a ward of Theodore Camden, but he wanted nothing to do with the family that left him out of the family legacy. Bailey’s best friend is her cousin Melinda Camden, who, along with her twin brother, is an heir to the Camden legacy. In subtle ways, she always manages to remind Bailey of the family legacy that Bailey is not part of. Bailey has just come out of rehab for an addiction problem, but Melinda ignores that problem and encourages Bailey to party with her and her boyfriend. The girls grew up together playing in the apartment that Melinda now occupies, learning the story of how Melinda’s great-grandfather, Theodore Camden, was murdered by the Sara Smythe, the insane managerette. The mystery is that no one know what drove Sara to murder.

The story drew me right in and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened — until about the middle of the book. Then it slowed down for me tremendously, to the point that I almost put the book aside. Both Sara and Bailey were making some very bad choices, even while telling themselves they were making bad choices, and that was difficult for me to read about! Luckily that only lasted for a short time, and the story picked right up again! The story of Sara and Theodore was much more compelling for me than that of Bailey. I understand that the Bailey story was necessary to give us some of the details, but I really wanted to rush through her parts of the story and get back to the Sara story!

I think this will be a great book for book clubs! There are so many things I would like to discuss right now, but I can’t because it would give spoilers! I can say that many of them have to do with motivation of the characters for the actions they took, and the consequences of their decisions.

Visit the publisher’s website to read and excerpt. Visit the author’s website to learn more about the book and a conversation with the author about her inspiration for the book.


I received an advanced review copy of this book through the Penguin First To Read program.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Review: The Almost Sisters

The Almost Sisters
by Joshilyn Jackson

Why I chose this book? I enjoyed Someone Else's Love Story by the same author
When I read this book? July 2017
Who should read this book? Fans of southern fiction, mystery, Joshilyn Jackson and more!
Source: TLC Book Tours
My Rating:   ✰✰✰✰½     4½ Stars

Here is a synopsis of The Almost Sisters from TLC Book Tours

• Hardcover: 352 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (July 11, 2017)
With empathy, grace, humor, and piercing insight, the author of gods in Alabama pens a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality—the stories we tell ourselves about our origins and who we really are.
Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.
It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby boy—an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old’s life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she’s been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.
Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she’s pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.

My Review

Wow! This book was not what I expected! And I mean that in the best possible way! I’d read and enjoyed previous books by Joshilyn Jackson, so as soon as I saw she had a new one, I was interested. And I expected to be entertained, so that wasn’t a surprise. What DID surprise me was how much depth the story had! I mean, if you only want to read it as a quick summer read, you can do that and enjoy it, and it won’t take you more than a couple of sittings to finish it!

But there is so much more going on in this book if you want to dig deeper. There is the story of 2 little old ladies who are best friends and protective of one another. There is the mystery of the bones in the long hidden trunk in the attic. There is the broken marriage and the teenage girl dealing with paternal abandonement. There is an unexpected pregnancy after a one-night stand complete with biracial child. And the story even has Batman! Book clubs are going to love this one!

I really connected with the characters and cared what happened to them, especially Wattie and Birchie, the two little old ladies, and Leia and Batman. I also love the cover! It kept me guessing awhile though about the sisters on the cover. Are they the little old ladies in the youth, or Leia and her step-sister Rachel?

This will be a fun summer selection for books clubs with a plot that you can move through quickly to finish in a sitting or two, but enough depth to lead to interesting discussions!

Visit the publisher’s website to read an excerpt or download a reader’s guide. You can view a book trailer below.



Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


About Josilyn Jackson

Joshilyn Jackson is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels, including gods in Alabama and A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages. A former actor, Jackson is also an award-winning audiobook narrator. She lives in Decatur, Georgia, with her husband and their two children.

Connect with her through her website, Facebook, or Twitter.




This book review is included in a tour by TLC Book Tours. I was provided a copy for review purposes.

Joshilyn’s Tour Stops

  • Tuesday, July 11th: Book by Book
  • Wednesday, July 12th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
  • Thursday, July 13th: bookchickdi
  • Friday, July 14th: Time 2 Read
  • Monday, July 17th: Tina Says…
  • Tuesday, July 18th: StephTheBookworm
  • Wednesday, July 19th: BookNAround
  • Thursday, July 20th: The Book Diva’s Reads
  • Friday, July 21st: Bibliotica
  • Monday, July 24th: A Chick Who Reads
  • Tuesday, July 25th: Leigh Kramer
  • Wednesday, July 26th: Always With a Book
  • Thursday, July 27th: Ms. Nose in a Book
  • Thursday, July 27th: Wining Wife
  • Friday, July 28th: SJ2B House Of Books
  • Monday, July 31st: she treads softly

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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Six Degrees of Separation - July 2017

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly meme that was started by Annabel Smith and Emma Chapman. It is currently hosted by Kate on her booksaremyfavouriteandbest blog, and normally runs on the first Saturday of the month. The main idea of this meme is to form a chain of books by linking something they have in common, kind of like forming a word ladder with common letters, and everyone begins their chains with the same book. Other than that, there are no set rules. You get to make your own!

This month, we are starting with Picnic At Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay. It probably won’t surprise you that this is another one that I haven’t read. What I know about it comes from the synopsis at Goodreads; it takes place in Australia so I’ll use that as my jumping-off point.

The image of a harsh and rocky Australian shore makes me think of The Light Between Oceans by M.L Stedman. The words in the book evoked beautiful images but it was not a pretty story. I differed from most everyone who has read the book in that I didn’t enjoy it. I read it for book club!

Another book that I read for book club, but really didn’t enjoy, also has the word ‘ocean’ in its title — The Ocean At The End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. There was a supernatural element to the story that just didn’t work for me!

Miss Peregrine’s House for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs also had a supernatural element to it, and again, it just didn’t work for me. This was another book club selection, so I finished it. It is the first in a series that I won’t be continuing on in..

Another series in which one book was enough is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collinsm — another book club selection! By itself, I didn’t really love the book but I liked it well enough. But I wasn’t ready to repeat the experience. One round of Hunger Games was enough, thank you very much!

Divergent by Veronica Roth is also the first in a series, and in many ways reminds me of The Hunger Games. We also read this one for book club, but this time it is a series that I actually devoured. The last book was a bit of a disappointment, but I digress.

One thing I loved about that book was the setting — Chicago, a city I am pretty familiar with. The story takes place in future day Chicago. Another book that is set in Chicago, but this time in the past, is The Devil in the White City by Eric Larson by Eric Larson. This tells the story of America’s first ‘serial killer’ at the time of the Chicago World’s Fair in the 1890s
And there’s my chain; from Picnic At Hanging Rock to The Devil in the White City in six moves, and except for the first one, I have read them all with my book club! Visit the current Six Degrees post on Kate’s blog to link up your chain and see what others have done with Picnic At Hanging Rock. Next month we are starting with Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Be sure to come back to see what I do with it!
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Friday, June 23, 2017

Review: Kiss Carlo

Kiss Carlo
by Adriana Trigiani

Why I chose this book? I loved her previous books
When I read this book? June 2017
Who should read this book? Fans of the author and readers who enjoy exploring a different era
Source: TLC Book Tours
My Rating:   ✰✰✰✰½     4½ Stars

Here is a synopsis of The Beach House: Coming Home from TLC Book Tours

 

• Hardcover: 544 pages
• Publisher: Harper (June 20, 2017)
From Adriana Trigiani, the beloved New York Times-bestselling author of The Shoemaker’s Wife, comes an exhilarating epic novel of love, loyalty, and creativity—the story of an Italian-American family on the cusp of change.
It’s 1949 and South Philadelphia bursts with opportunity during the post-war boom. The Palazzini Cab Company & Western Union Telegraph Office, owned and operated by Dominic Palazzini and his three sons, is flourishing: business is good, they’re surrounded by sympathetic wives and daughters-in-law, with grandchildren on the way. But a decades-long feud that split Dominic and his brother Mike and their once-close families sets the stage for a re-match.
Amidst the hoopla, the arrival of an urgent telegram from Italy upends the life of Nicky Castone (Dominic and his wife’s orphaned nephew) who lives and works with his Uncle Dom and his family. Nicky decides, at 30, that he wants more—more than just a job driving Car #4 and more than his longtime fiancée Peachy DePino, a bookkeeper, can offer. When he admits to his fiancée that he’s been secretly moonlighting at the local Shakespeare theater company, Nicky finds himself drawn to the stage, its colorful players and to the determined Calla Borelli, who inherited the enterprise from her father, Nicky must choose between the conventional life his family expects of him or chart a new course and risk losing everything he cherishes.
From the dreamy mountaintop village of Roseto Valfortore in Italy, to the vibrant streets of South Philly, to the close-knit enclave of Roseto, Pennsylvania, to New York City during the birth of the golden age of television, Kiss Carlo is a powerful, inter-generational story that celebrates the ties that bind, while staying true to oneself when all hope seems lost.
Told against the backdrop of some of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies, this novel brims with romance as long buried secrets are revealed, mistaken identities are unmasked, scores are settled, broken hearts are mended and true love reigns. Trigiani’s consummate storytelling skill and her trademark wit, along with a dazzling cast of characters will enthrall readers. Once again, the author has returned to her own family garden to create an unforgettable feast. Kiss Carlo is a jubilee, resplendent with hope, love, and the abiding power of la famiglia.

My Review

I really enjoyed this book! The cover is inviting and the story is well-written. I have to admit that when I picked the book up, it was a little intimidating because it appears to be such a long story. But I promise you — once you pick it up, you are NOT going to want to put it down!

The story centers around Nicky Castone, an Italian-American who grew up in Philadelphia and along with his cousins, served in WWII. When we meet him, Nicky is struggling with his identity. Because he was orphaned as a young child, he was raised by his aunt and uncle and is now driving a cab and delivering telegrams for the family business. But Nicky isn’t really sure he wants to follow in the family footsteps, and in fact, is secretly working in a neighborhood theater. He has been engaged for the past several years, but they’ve not yet set a date, and he’s not too sure he wants to follow through with that either. And just to make things interesting, the theater director is a lovely Italian-American girl. Now, before you say ‘I know where this is going’, let me tell you — you don’t. This story has romance, but it kept me guessing until the end!

As much as I enjoyed the story, I may have enjoyed even more the ‘Italian-American immersion experience’ I got as I read this. I experienced life in the early 1950s, with church festivals and family meal preparations, and I could almost taste the food! The characters frequently throw in Italian phrases which was particularly interesting for me. I’ve been practicing my Italian with Duolingo for about two years, and if was fun to see that my practice is paying off — I was able to understand much of it before I read the translation!  

The one thing I would change about the book is that I would develop some of the other characters a bit more. I’d have liked to have known more about some of the other family members. In particular, I would have liked to have known more about cousin Gio. He had some issues that I felt were not really resolved at the end of the story. At the same time, I was satisfied with the ending and i have to acknowledge that developing any of the other characters further may have made the story overly long. I wonder if there is enough to Gio’s story to warrant another book. It’s one I would definitely read!

This book is definitely a keeper! It’s going on my ‘I want to read again and again’ shelf right next to The Shoemaker’s Wife! If you enjoy stories about family, and particularly about Italian-American family, you’ll want to read this one!

Visit the publisher’s website to read an excerpt or download a reader’s guide. You can view a book trailer below.


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


About Adriana Trigiani

Adriana Trigiani is the bestselling author of 17 books, which have been published in 36 countries around the world. She is a playwright, television writer/producer and filmmaker. She wrote and directed the film version of her novel Big Stone Gap, which was shot entirely on location in her Virginia hometown. She is co-founder of the Origin Project, an in-school writing program that serves more than a thousand students in Appalachia. She lives in Greenwich Village with her family.

Visit Adriana at her website: www.adrianatrigiani.com, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.



This book review is included in a tour by TLC Book Tours. I was provided a copy for review purposes.



Adriana’s Tour Stops
Tuesday, June 20th: Life By Kristen
Wednesday, June 21st: bookchickdi
Thursday, June 22nd: A Night’s Dream of Books
Friday, June 23rd: Time 2 Read
Monday, June 26th: Library of Clean Reads
Tuesday, June 27th: Based on a True Story
Wednesday, June 28th: Always With a Book
Thursday, June 29th: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Friday, June 30th: View from the Birdhouse
Monday, July 3rd: Kritters Ramblings
Tuesday, July 4th: The many thoughts of a reader
Wednesday, July 5th: Tina Says…
Friday, July 7th: My Journey Back
Friday, July 7th: Stephany Writes
Monday, July 10th: Wining Wife
Tuesday, July 11th: West Metro Mommy
Wednesday, July 12th: BookNAround
Thursday, July 13th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Friday, July 14th: Bibliotica

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