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: 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 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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5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Review: Landfall by Ellen Urbani

Landfall-CoverTitle: Landfall

Author: Ellen Urbani

Pages: 304

Genre: Contemporary Historical Fiction

ISBN: 9780988265776

Publisher: Forest Avenue Press

Rating: 4-stars

Read: May 2015

In a car laden with supplies intended for hurricane victims, Rose and her mother catapult off the road onto the shoals of the Black Warrior River in Alabama, killing an unidentified storm survivor. To escape the scene, Rose, orphaned by the crash, laces the dead girl’s sneakers onto her own feet and cannot bring herself to take them off. When she learns she shares not only shoes but a name and a birth year with the Jane Doe, Rose embarks upon a guilt-assuaging odyssey to retrace the girl’s last steps…

Ellen Urbani’s second novel Landfall is a beautifully written tale of two girls, their mothers, and the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. The book is written from the  alternating perspective of these two teenagers, Rose and Rosebud (Rosy), who share the same name and birth year. The book describes how their destinies merge, and develops into a surprising twist and unexpected ending.

At first I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book, but Urbani’s writing is gorgeous, her voice is convincing, and the characters are well developed. I really liked the way the author researched the events that took place after hurricane Katrina, and how she was able to weave those details in the story. After finding out the author came from a healthcare background, I understood why she took her time describing with great details the passages at the Superdome and the events at the Crescent City Connection Bridge.

The story is not necessarily a happy one, but I definitely recommend this book for its fascinating historical accuracy, beautiful vernacular, and rich and well-developed characters.

I’d like to thank Edelweiss for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This book is scheduled to be published in August 2015.

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Review: The Farm by Tom Rob Smith

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Title: The Farm

Author: Tom Rob Smith

Pages: 352

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

ISBN: 9780446550734

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Ratings: 4-Star

Read: April 16, 2015- May 2,2015 – I own a copy.

Daniel believed that his parents were enjoying a peaceful retirement on a remote farm in Sweden. But with a single phone call, everything changes.

“Your mother…she’s not well, his father tells him. She’s been imagining things – terrible, terrible things. She’s had a psychotic breakdown, and been committed to a mental hospital.”

Before Daniel can board a plane to Sweden, his mother calls: “Everything that man has told you is a lie. I’m not mad… I need the police… Meet me at Heathrow.”

When Daniel gets off the phone after talking to his mother, we embark in this amazing journey of lies, secrets and misconceptions through rural Sweden. Daniel is caught between his parents allegations against each other, and at times it is simply impossible to distinguish who’s telling the truth. There is so much more to this novel than meets the eye.

I read this book in a few days not because of lack of interest, but purely for lack of time. Smith does a fantastic job at building the suspense in this novel and weaving a compelling plot that is really a plot within a plot, full of twists and turns.

What I simply adored about this book was the fact that I had it all wrong. I never saw that ending coming.

I definitely recommend this book! This was my first novel by author Tom Rob Smith, and I simply LOVED it! I’m really looking forward to reading more books from him.

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

The Girl On The Train: An Audiobook Review

the girl on the train book cover

Unabridged (10 hours and 59 minutes)

Author: Paula Hawkins

Narration: Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey, India Fisher

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Release Date: 1-13-15

Publisher: Penguin Audio

Rating: 3-Star

Listened: April, 2015

From Audible:Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

The Girl on The Train is Paula Hawkins’ debut novel, and it is told from the perspective of three different women. The book starts with the main character, Rachel, a lonely alcoholic divorcee who takes the train to London everyday in order to conceal from her roommate the fact she was fired months prior.

The book is also narrated by three actresses, which allowed for differentiation between the characters. This novel was the third audiobook that I felt compelled to write a review. I knew about the buzz surrounding the book, and purposefully avoided reading other reviews.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the narrative. I thought the story was suspenseful and interesting. None of the women in the book are particularly likable, but in this book, I took that to be a plus. None of the three characters were reliable witnesses, and you get the sense after a few chapters that their lives will intertwine somehow.

The narration of the book was a bit dull and monotone, but it worked! It captured the vibe of the story. The only reason I’m giving this book a 3-Star review is the fact that I had the plot figured out several chapters before the end of the book. I felt that Hawkins perhaps gave too many clues that easily led to the conclusion of the book. I definitely recommend this audiobook and I look forward to her next novels.

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3 star