Review: Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

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Growing up on her family’s Sonoma vineyard, Georgia Ford learned some important secrets. The secret number of grapes it takes to make a bottle of wine: eight hundred. The secret ingredient in her mother’s lasagna: chocolate. The secret behind ending a fight: hold hands. But just a week before her wedding, thirty-year-old Georgia discovers her beloved fiancé has been keeping a secret so explosive, it will change their lives forever.
Georgia does what she’s always done: she returns to the family vineyard, expecting the comfort of her long-married parents, and her brothers, and everything familiar. But it turns out her fiancé is not the only one who’s been keeping secrets…

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave was May’s book selection for my monthly book club, and let me start by saying that I really, truly, tried to like this book. Since this was my selection, I felt that a book about wine, vineyard, wine country and a bit of romance was a recipe for a great book club discussion. Unfortunately for me, it wasn’t.

This is the story of Georgia, who after finding out that her fiancé Ben has been keeping this “massive” (sorry, it really isn’t) secret from her, decides to leave L.A. on the same day she’s trying out her wedding dress and dashes back to her hometown of Sebastopol in Sonoma county. When she gets home, Georgia finds out that apparently her family has also been keeping some secrets of their own.

Let me start by saying what did not work for me in this novel. Laura Dave’s writing really did not impress me at all. I couldn’t relate or like any of her characters. The chapters were very short and choppy, and the whole back and forth between present and past and her father’s memory really didn’t do it for me. I must have put this book down at least three times and read a couple of other books in between. I eventually managed to finish the book in order to discuss it during book club meeting. Definitely not my cup of tea.

2 star

Review: The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy

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This is the story of Sarah Brown daughter of abolitionist John Brown. She is one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers. After learning the shocking news that she cannot bear children, she starts to create maps and hide them in her paintings helping save the lives of slaves fleeing north.

The narrative is split between 1850-60s West Virginia and the present day. The flow of the narrative worked well for this novel, with Sarah Brown’s narrative of the past being better developed than the present day story. Overall, this style of narrative brought the characters to life and made it to a very interesting story.

I certainly recommend this book even if you are not a huge fan of historical fiction. I really enjoyed Sarah McCoy’s The Mapmaker’s Children. This book pulled me right in from the very first pages. The characters are vivid and believable. A perfect blend of real historical people and fictional characters.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

5 star

Book Details:

Title: The Mapmaker’s Children/Author:Sarah McCoy/Genre:Historical Fiction/ ISBN:9780385348904/Publisher:Crown/Rating: 5-Stars/Read:July, 2015.

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 Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

The Luckiest Girl Alive was our pick for the month of June in my monthly book club. I had heard about the buzz regarding the book, the comparisons to Gone Girl and other psychological thrillers, so I approached this book with caution and a certain skepticism–I’m glad I did.

The novel tells the story of TifAni FaNelli (yes! that’s how the name is written throughout the book! One of the few things that got on my nerves about this book) a rich, superficial writer with a glamorous job, fantastic wardrobe and perfect life who is planning her wedding to blue blood fiancé Luke. In the midst of her wedding planning she is also working on a documentary that threatens to expose and clarify events that happened at Bradley School, a prestigious prep-school she attended as a teenager.

I had a real hard time reading this book. I put it down so many times that four other books later I just picked it up for the last time and gave it another try. The thing that really kept me from finish it the first time around was the fact that I could not stand the main character TifAni (Ani).

“Sometimes I feel like a windup doll, like I have to reach behind and turn my golden key to produce a greeting, a laugh, whatever the socially acceptable reaction should be.”

I found that I couldn’t sympathize with her at all. I couldn’t stand her voice and how ungrateful, superficial and flat-out boring she was. The main twist comes in mid-book. Although an unpredictable twist, it was just not strong enough to save this story. Once you learn the twist, there is just not enough plot to carry on the rest of the book. I was disappointed.

2 star

Book Details:

Title: The Luckiest Girl Alive/Author:Jessica Knoll/Genre:Psychological Thriller/ ISBN:9781476789637/Publisher:Simon and Schuster/Rating: 2-Stars/Read:June, 2015.

Review: The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

The husband's secret

Title: The Husband’s Secret

Author: Liane Moriarty

Pages: 394

Genre: Fiction

ISBN: 9780399159343

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons 

Rating: 3-Stars

Read: May 2015–I own a copy

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive.

Cecilia Fitzpatrick is a successful business woman and a devoted mother and wife who someday, accidentally, stumbles upon her husband’s letter addressed to her.

“For my wife, Cecilia Fitzpatrick
To be opened only in the event of my death”

And just like Pandora’s box, once the letter is opened we are immersed in a tale of secrets and the repercussion of those secrets in our lives.

The Husband’s Secret is Liane Moriarty’s fifth of six novels. What I absolutely love about Moriarty’s books is her writing style. I love her voice! I love the way she develops her characters and the characters’ dialogues; the twists and turns, and her ability to weave in a bit of humor even in the most serious and sad parts of her books. Moriarty is excellent at writing about everyday life with its secrets, betrayals, heartbreaks and illusions. In that sense the author did not disappoint– but having read Big Little Lies (her latest novel) first, I feel I was a little bit spoiled and expected so much more from this novel. I found the subject of the letter a bit predictable and the ending left me wanting a lot more.

Overall, this is another wonderful book by an author who is quickly becoming another favorite of mine.

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