Review: First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

Growing up, Josie and Meredith Garland shared a loving, if sometimes contentious relationship. Josie was impulsive, spirited, and outgoing; Meredith hardworking, thoughtful, and reserved. When tragedy strikes their family, their different responses to the event splinter their delicate bond. Fifteen years later, Josie and Meredith are in their late thirties, following very different paths. Josie, a first grade teacher, is single—and this close to swearing off dating for good. What she wants more than the right guy, however, is to become a mother—a feeling that is heightened when her ex-boyfriend’s daughter ends up in her class. Determined to have the future she’s always wanted, Josie decides to take matters into her own hands. On the outside, Meredith is the model daughter with the perfect life. A successful attorney, she’s married to a wonderful man, and together they’re raising a beautiful four-year-old daughter. Yet lately, Meredith feels dissatisfied and restless, secretly wondering if she chose the life that was expected of her rather than the one she truly desired. As the anniversary of their tragedy looms and painful secrets from the past begin to surface, Josie and Meredith must not only confront the issues that divide them, but also come to terms with their own choices.

Review

I feel the need to start this review by explaining how I managed to give this novel 4-stars when I completely disliked every character in this book. I am usually drawn to a good family drama, especially stories about siblings. So, the premise of this book was a huge selling point. Another reason that brought me to this novel was the author. I really enjoyed Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed and Something Blue, and I was already familiar with her style of writing. Indeed, I think Giffin really shines in family drama and the description of everyday life in a way that’s interesting and smart.

This book surrounds the story of this family, the Garlands, who after losing their oldest son in a car accident become extremely dysfunctional. There is something to be said about grief and tragedy. It either brings out the best out of people, or it brings the absolute worst out of them. In the case of the Garlands, it certainly brought out the worst.

Although this story does not really have a plot, Giffin still manages to make the narrative engaging and the dialogues dynamic. The format of the novel is set up with alternating chapters between Josie’s accounts and Meredith’s accounts of their life. Josie is reaching her late 30s. She is an elementary school teacher, self-absorbed, and selfish. Meredith’s not much better either.  She is an OCD type lawyer who, although she doesn’t see it, is also extremely selfish. Both sisters, together with the father and the mother have never truly processed the death of Daniel fifteen years earlier and somehow those scars have dictated their lives, their choices, and the relationship (or the lack of) they have with each other.

I really tried to sympathize with these sisters, but I just couldn’t. I believe Meredith’s complete ungratefulness and inability to see anything beyond her belly button had me brace myself not to slap her in the face a couple of times. And that is one of the reasons this novel deserves 4-stars. Although parts of the story are predictable and even impossible, Giffin’s character development was so good that I had a very clear idea of the voice and mannerisms of these characters by the time I was done with the book. This is an emotional and well-written novel with themes of grievance, forgiveness, friendship, and love.

I received an early copy of this book for free from Penguin Random House First To Read in exchange for my honest review.


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Review: The Invoice by Jonas Karlsson

A passionate film buff, our hero’s life revolves around his part-time job at a video store, the company of a few precious friends, and a daily routine that more often than not concludes with pizza and movie in his treasured small space in Stockholm. When he receives an astronomical invoice from a random national bureaucratic agency, everything will tumble into madness as he calls the hotline night and day to find out why he is the recipient of the largest bill in the entire country. What is the price of a cherished memory? How much would you pay for a beautiful summer day? How will our carefree idealist, who is content with so little and has no chance of paying it back, find a way out of this mess? All these questions pull you through The Invoice and prove once again that Jonas Karlsson is simply a master of entertaining, intelligent, and life-affirming work.

Review

What a cute little book! I devoured this book in a few hours. I found the premise absolutely fantastic. The cost of happiness! Great satire, sweet and quirky little book. Very philosophical and one of those books that gets you thinking about it long after you’re done with it. I’m not sure if this book is for everyone, but if you enjoy deep, philosophical satires, you will certainly enjoy this one.

I’d like to thank First To Read for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 


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Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

“Are you happy with your life?” Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.” In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable–something impossible. Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

Review

Ok, so Dark Matter is one of those novels where the least you know about it the better. I would even say be careful with reading too many reviews because it is really easy to spoil the plot. The first chapters of this book are extremely captivating. This is a fast-paced thriller that will truly surprise you and you won’t see it coming. Suffice to say that this book was absolutely nothing like what I expected it to be. As for the genre of this book, there is a little bit of everything in this story. It’s part sci-fi, part romance, and part thriller. I thought it was a very innovative concept by Blake Crouch. Although this book didn’t get a 5-stars in my opinion, partly because by the time I really understood what was going on in the story the book lost part of its interest, I still highly recommend this book.

I’d like to thank First To Read for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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Review: Break in Case of Emergency by Jessica Winter

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Jen has reached her early thirties and has all but abandoned a once-promising painting career when spurred by the 2008 economic crisis, she takes a poorly defined job at a feminist nonprofit. The foundation’s ostensible aim is to empower women, but staffers spend all their time devising acronyms for imaginary programs, ruthlessly undermining one another, and stroking the ego of their boss, the larger-than-life celebrity philanthropist Leora Infinitas. Jen’s complicity in this passive-aggressive hellscape only intensifies her feelings of inferiority compared to her two best friends—one a wealthy attorney with a picture-perfect family, the other a passionately committed artist—as does Jen’s apparent inability to have a baby, a source of existential panic that begins to affect her marriage and her already precarious status at the office.

I loved Jessica Winter’s Break in Case of Emergency. Although the book started out a little slow for my taste and the story alone was not that interesting, Winter’s prose, her writing, and dialogues just really got a hold of me. Her story is funny, witty and it had me laughing out loud a few times. It was really refreshing to read something this different, fresh and invigorating. Definitely not your typical chick-lit. I highly recommend it as a great summer read.

I received an early copy of this book for free from Penguin Random House in exchange for my honest review. The new edition of this book is scheduled to be published on July 12, 2016.

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Review: Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor

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Eighteen-year-old Ada Concannon has just been hired by the respected but eccentric Dickinson family of Amherst, Massachusetts. Despite their difference in age and the upstairs-downstairs divide, Ada strikes up a deep friendship with Miss Emily, the gifted elder daughter living a spinster’s life at home. But Emily’s passion for words begins to dominate her life. She will wear only white and avoids the world outside the Dickinson homestead. When Ada’s safety and reputation are threatened, however, Emily must face down her own demons in order to help her friend, with shocking consequences.

Miss Emily is Nuala O’Connor’s debut novel in America. The book is a fictional story of Emily Dickson and her Irish maid Ada. This is a beautifully written book. I loved the way O’Connor writes in such a poetic way, and how she developed both Emily’s and Ada’s characters. The book is told from the perspective of both of the girls, alternating each chapter.

The story gets a little heavy towards the middle of the book, and it caught me by surprise. I can’t say much without giving away the plot, but the book has a nice happy ending and O’Connor’s writing will stay with you for some days to come. Miss Emily is a gorgeously written story about female friendship.

This is an excellent selection for a book club. I highly recommend it.

I received an early copy of this book for free from Penguin Random House First To Read in exchange for my honest review.

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Book Details:

Title: Miss Emily/Author:Nuala O’Connor/Genre:Fiction/ ISBN:9780143126751/Publisher:Penguin Books/Rating: 4-Stars/Read:July, 2015.

Review: The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

The Enchanted April

Title: The Enchanted April

Author: Elizabeth von Arnim

Pages: 222

Genre: Fiction/Classics

ISBN: 9780143107736

Publisher: Penguin Classics

Rating: 4-Stars

Read: May, 2015

Four very different women take up an offer advertised in the Times for a “small medieval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be let furnished for the month of April.” As each blossoms in the warmth of the Italian spring, quite unexpected changes occur.

This is a lovely book by Elizabeth von Arnim! Four women decide to leave their dreary lives in London and rent a villa in Italy. A delightful afternoon read, and a great homage to friendship and most importantly, the power of traveling and how transformative it can be in our lives. I love Arnim’s descriptions of the landscape, the scenery and the flowers. I love flowers and I could almost smell them on the pages of this book. My only complaint, and the reason I didn’t rate this book 5 stars was the husbands’ part in the story (without giving too much away). I would’ve let them out completely and glorified the power of female friendship. Overall, a fantastic read.

I received an early copy of this book for free from Penguin Random House in exchange for my honest review. The new edition of this book is scheduled to be published on June 2, 2015.

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Review: Broken Promise by Linwood Barclay

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Title: Broken Promise: A Thriller

Author: Linwood Barclay

Pages: 488

Genre: Crime/Thriller

ISBN: 9780451472670

Publisher: NAL

Rating: 4-Stars

Read: May 2015

After his wife’s death and the collapse of his newspaper, David Harwood has no choice but to uproot his nine-year-old son and move back into his childhood home in Promise Falls, New York. David believes his life is in free fall, and he can’t find a way to stop his descent…

David Harwood is a widowed father who moves back to his hometown of Promise Falls, NY with his young son Ethan. Life is at its low for David, he loses his job at a local newspaper shortly after moving back and has to move in back with his parents. When David’s mother asks him to take some food to a nearby cousin, he finds out that his cousin Marla is raising a baby. The problem is that Marla does not have a child. David starts to snoop around to try to get to the bottom of the story, and hopefully find the actual mother of the baby. When he learns that the mother of the baby has been murdered, he starts his own investigations, leaning on his experience as a reporter, to find out what happened and what role–if any, his cousin played in the crime.

Linwood Barclay is indeed a master of suspense. Broken Promise was a delight to read. A real page turner. I love the way Barclay developed his characters! The plot was very well written, full of twists and unexpected events. A fantastic thriller! My only complaint was the fact that although the ending was really good, there were a few loose ends that were not explained. I’m hoping there will be a sequel. Overall, it is a great read for fans of this genre.

I received an early copy of this book for free from Penguin Random House in exchange for my honest review. This book is scheduled to be published on July 28, 2015.

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