Wednesday, June 28, 2017

ARC Review: The Windfall by Diksha Basu

The WindfallTitle: The Windfall
Author: Diksha Basu
Publisher/Publication Date: Crown Publishing Group; June 27, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

A heartfelt comedy of manners for readers of Seating Arrangements and Crazy Rich Asians, Diksha Basu's debut novel unfolds the story of a family discovering what it means to be nouveau riche in modern India...

For the past thirty years, Mr. and Mrs. Jha’s lives have been defined by cramped spaces, cut corners, gossipy neighbors, and the small dramas of stolen yoga pants and stale marriages. They thought they’d settled comfortably into their golden years, pleased with their son’s acceptance into an American business school. But then Mr. Jha comes into an enormous and unexpected sum of money, and moves his wife from their housing complex in East Delhi to the super-rich side of town, where he becomes eager to fit in as a man of status: skinny ties, hired guards, shoe-polishing machines, and all. The move sets off a chain of events that rock their neighbors, their marriage, and their son, who is struggling to keep a lid on his romantic dilemmas and slipping grades, and brings unintended consequences, ultimately forcing the Jha family to reckon with what really matters.

Hilarious and wise, The Windfall illuminates with warmth and charm the precariousness of social status, the fragility of pride, and, above all, the human drive to build and share a home. Even the rich, it turns out, need to belong somewhere...

My Thoughts:

I have read exactly two books this year that were named windfall and both of them have been great. The latest one is The Windfall by Diksha Basu, which was just one of those books that I happen to find incredibly enjoyable. It focused on the everyday lives of the characters and how a stroke of good luck can affect one family and potentially those around them in ways perceived to be both negative and good. And guys, this book was a whole lot of fun.

Given the title of this book, I knew that a large sum of money—or some other good luck—would be involved even before I read the synopsis. From the start, I had moderately high hopes for this story and wasn’t disappointed. Truly, the characters were kind of awesome, especially the Jha family and their close-knit group of friends. The Jha family was delightful to read about. I felt like Basu approached the worries felt by the characters in a realistic way that was thoroughly engrossing. I think that was my favorite part of The Windfall: how the unexpected good fortune wasn’t just something that was superficially added as an afterthought, but affected the characters in good, bad, and emotional ways.

Point blank: the story was just a good one. There was something so simple and refreshing about The Windfall and how it explored the complexities of life, love, family, and change. I was thoroughly impressed by this book. Now, I’ll just sit over here and patiently wait for Basu’s next novel.

Rating 4/5

Disclaimer: copy of the book was provided by First to Read (Publisher) for this review, thank you!

About the author...

Diksha Basu is a writer and occasional actor. Originally from New Delhi, India, she holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University and now divides her time between New York City and Mumbai...

Monday, June 26, 2017

ARC Review: Boardwalk Summer by Kimberly Fisk

Boardwalk SummerTitle: Boardwalk Summer
Author: Kimberly Fisk
Publisher/Publication Date: Berkley Books; June 27, 2017
Genre: Contemporary; Romance
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

In the town of Tranquility Bay, summer is the season of second chances... 

Single mother Hope Thompson has built a happy life for herself and her twins in beautiful Tranquility Bay, Washington. She doesn t dwell on her painful past especially not on the man who broke her heart all those years ago. But when Hope s beloved son needs help, she takes a desperate chance and reaches out to her children s father. Nick Fortune lives life in the spotlight as a champion race car driver. He s shocked to hear from Hope and even more surprised to learn that he s a father. He immediately heads to the Pacific Northwest to confront the past and the woman he once loved. There, on the quiet lakeshore, Nick and Hope must work together to save their son even if it means facing their complicated past for a second chance as a family...

My Thoughts:

Who was looking for a contemporary romance packed full of raw emotions, characters you could root for, and a story about second chances? Well, apparently, me. And I mean that in a good way, because I enjoyed Boardwalk Summer. I basically jumped into this book after another eARC I had to read ended up being incredibly disappointing. For a second, I thought I was going to end up in a reading slump, but once I started Boardwalk Summer, I couldn’t put the book down. This is the kind of story that I could go on and on about, but I don’t want to reveal too much about the plot and ruin the experience for someone else. So, I really had to work on this review, and cut out some things that got too close to spoilers.

The main theme of this story was second chances amidst a medical crisis. Emotions ran high, and things that happened in the past were talked about at length. Boardwalk Summer really illustrated how the past could haunt a person, as shown through the experiences of the characters. I don’t know about anyone else, but I really enjoy second chance stories. So, from the start, I was interested in seeing what Kimberly Fisk would do with the trope in Boardwalk Summer. The initial introduction of the main character, Hope Thompson, was great. I was immediately drawn into the story and wanted everything to work out for Hope and her kids. I don’t read enough contemporary anyway, but I hardly see race car drivers as love interests. So, Nick Fortune and his side of the story came across as particularly entertaining. Some of my favorite parts of the book happened to be the interactions between Hope and Nick.

Boardwalk Summer was a quick read that dealt with some heavy subjects, combined with a romance I could totally get behind. Those things put together is what made this book so readable. Boardwalk Summer is the first book I’ve read by Kimberly Fisk and it certainly won’t be the last.

Rating 4.5/5

Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by First to Read (Publisher) for this review, thank you!

Friday, June 23, 2017

ARC Review: The Space Between The Stars by Anne Corlett

The Space Between the StarsTitle: The Space Between the Stars
Author: Anne Corlett
Publisher/Publication Date: Berkley; June 13, 2017
Genre: Science Fiction; Dystopia
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

In a breathtakingly vivid and emotionally gripping debut novel, one woman must confront the emptiness in the universe—and in her own heart—when a devastating virus reduces most of humanity to dust and memories.

All Jamie Allenby ever wanted was space. Even though she wasn’t forced to emigrate from Earth, she willingly left the overpopulated, claustrophobic planet. And when a long relationship devolved into silence and suffocating sadness, she found work on a frontier world on the edges of civilization. Then the virus hit...

Now Jamie finds herself dreadfully alone, with all that’s left of the dead. Until a garbled message from Earth gives her hope that someone from her past might still be alive.

Soon Jamie finds other survivors, and their ragtag group will travel through the vast reaches of space, drawn to the promise of a new beginning on Earth. But their dream will pit them against those desperately clinging to the old ways. And Jamie’s own journey home will help her close the distance between who she has become and who she is meant to be...

My Thoughts:

The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett was a book I happened to see when it was up for review, and decided to go ahead and get it while I had the chance because it seemed interesting. Honestly, The Space Between the Stars is a book I feel mixed about. I don’t know if I like this book or not. It’s hard to say because there were things I liked about the story and others that I disliked entirely—with extremes in both the latter and former categories.

In my opinion, the beginning was the best part. It started with the main character waking up after coming down with a virus that had a low survivability rate. Right there, that’s where the story got its start, when the novels goal was set up, and the main character, Jamie Allenby, was introduced. I liked that Corlett made the decision to tell the story from the point of view of a survivor of this virus, and chose to show what immediately came after beating-the-odds. Actually, I liked Jamie’s narrative in the beginning. Her voice was strong and her experience was both emotionally raw and compelling. In her situation, I could understand her reaction and her desire to seek out familiar places and people. Jamie was a character I could get behind.

However, the direction the story partially took later on didn’t end up being my kind of thing. I kept reading because I wanted to know what the end would bring for Jamie and the people around her. While the beginning was awesome, my problem stemmed from the middle section of the book. It focused on the travels of the characters and how they interacted with one another. Some of the places they visited just made me stop and wonder why it was necessary since it was quickly forgotten.

Sure, near the last couple of chapters, I had to go back and reread certain bits of dialogue, but it was worth it because the details ended up making a whole lot of sense.

So, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the middle of the book, but the things that I liked about the beginning of the book came back at the end. Things I didn’t think would get resolved did, and I was pretty happy about that.

Rating 3/5

Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by First to Read (Publisher) for this review, thank you!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

ARC Review: The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor

The Shark ClubTitle: The Shark Club
Author: Ann Kidd Taylor
Publisher/Publication Date: Viking; June 6, 2017
Genre: Fiction; Mystery
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

A novel about love, loss, and sharks by the New York Times bestselling coauthor of the memoir Traveling with Pomegranates...

On a summer day on the Gulf of Mexico in 1988, two extraordinary things happen to twelve-year-old Maeve Donnelly. First, she is kissed by Daniel, the boy of her dreams. Then, she is attacked by a blacktip shark. Eighteen years later, Maeve is a world-traveling marine biologist studying and swimming with the very animals that once threatened her life. Known among her peers as the “shark whisperer,” Maeve is fearless in the water. On land, however, Maeve is dogged by unresolved wounds and indecisive about the path her life will take. After a particularly inspiring assignment abroad, Maeve returns to the small island off Florida’s coast where she grew up and to her childhood home—the legendarily charming and eccentric Hotel of the Muses, where she was raised by her grandmother. There, she is greeted by troubling news.

An illegal shark-finning operation has moved into town, and hundreds of sharks are dying. As Maeve fights to protect the fate of the animals so dear to her heart, she finds that her twin brother may be about to make it big as a novelist, using her love life as his jumping-off point. Will she confront her feelings about her brother’s betrayal—and forgive her childhood sweetheart, Daniel, the missteps of their youth? Or will she dive headlong back into her work and open her heart to Nicholas, her colleague who shares her passion for the ocean? Set against the intoxicating backdrop of palm trees, blood orange sunsets, calypso bands, and key lime pies, The Shark Club is a love story, an environmental mystery, and an exploration of a woman’s mysterious kinship with the sea and the sharks that inhabit it...

My Thoughts:

I went into The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor with little to no expectations. This is the first novel I’ve read by this author, so I wanted to keep an open mind about the story. And, you know what? The Shark Club wasn’t half bad. There were a lot of things I particularly liked about this story. The Shark Club is a character driven novel. A lot of time was devoted to developing the characters and their relationships. There was even a little bit of a mystery going on.

This book was mainly about the main character, Maeve Donnelly, returning home to her life after a research trip where she got to study sharks up close and personal. The Shark Club focused on Maeve’s relationships—both new and old—between friends, family, and old loves. At some parts, this book felt like a lot of other contemporary novels that I’ve read, but Maeve’s background and occupation is what made the story interesting. I don’t see marine biologists portrayed in fiction very often. I’ve seen it mentioned in passing, but I rarely come across a book that specifically deals with it in the way The Shark Club did. The plotline with the sharks was interesting, and I wish there would have been more of the technical stuff involving Maeve’s job.

The mystery was there. However, just like the marine biology side of the story, the mystery seemed to take a step to the side when considering other aspects of the story. Still, the mystery was pretty good.

Overall, I enjoyed The Shark Club.

Rating 3.5/5

This copy of the book was provided by First to Read (Publisher) for this review, thank you!

About the Author...

Ann Kidd Taylor is the coauthor of Traveling with Pomegranates, a memoir written with her mother, Sue Monk Kidd. Published by Viking in 2009, it appeared on numerous bestseller lists, including the New York Times list, and has been published in several languages. Sue Monk Kidd, is the award-winning and bestselling author of the novels The Secret Life of Bees, The Mermaid Chair, and The Invention of Wings. The Shark Club is Ann’s first novel. She lives in southwest Florida with her husband, son, and two dogs...

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Review: All by Myself, Alone by Mary Higgins Clark

All By Myself, Alone
Title:  All By Myself, Alone
Publisher/Publication Date:
Simon & Schuster; April 4, 2017
Format/Source:  Hardcover; Library
Genre: Suspense

Book Summary from Goodreads

A glamorous cruise on a luxurious ocean liner turns deadly in the latest mystery from “Queen of Suspense” and #1 New York Times bestselling author Mary Higgins Clark.

Fleeing a disastrous and humiliating arrest of her husband-to-be on the eve of their wedding, Celia Kilbride, a gems and jewelry expert, hopes to escape from public attention by lecturing on a brand-new cruise ship—the Queen Charlotte.

On board she meets eighty-six-year-old Lady Emily Haywood, “Lady Em,” as she is known throughout the world. Immensely wealthy, Lady Em is the owner of a priceless emerald necklace that she intends to leave to the Smithsonian after the cruise.  Read More

My Thoughts

Mary Higgins Clark is one of my all-time favorite suspense writers. In All by Myself, Alone, Clark presents a murder mystery at sea. It’s a quick, engaging read that’s divided into sections that reveal the events of the six day voyage, which—as the synopsis indicates—includes the murder of Lady Emily Haywood. Clark does a good job of presenting a variety of characters that might have the motive to commit the crime, which left me questioning whodunit until the end of the story. Needless to say, that this book is another page-turner by Mary Higgins Clark, and I look forward to reading additional work by this author.

Rating 4/5

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Review: City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Miracles (The Divine Cities, #3)Title: City of Miracles
Author: Robert Jackson Bennett
Publisher/Publication Date: Broadway Books; May 2, 2017
Genre: Fantasy
Source/Format: Blogging for Books; Paperback

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Revenge. It's something Sigrud je Harkvaldsson is very, very good at. Maybe the only thing...

So when he learns that his oldest friend and ally, former Prime Minister Shara Komayd, has been assassinated, he knows exactly what to do and that no mortal force can stop him from meting out the suffering Shara's killers deserve. Yet as Sigrud pursues his quarry with his customary terrifying efficiency, he begins to fear that this battle is an unwinnable one. Because discovering the truth behind Shara's death will require him to take up arms in a secret, decades-long war, face down an angry young god, and unravel the last mysteries of Bulikov, the city of miracles itself. And perhaps most daunting of all finally face the truth about his own cursed existence...

My Thoughts:

When dealing with Divinities you never know what might (and mostly will) go wrong...

City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett is undoubtedly one of my most anticipated book releases of 2017. My sentiment about the second book in the series—City of Blades—is similar to my conclusion about City of Miracles: It was well worth the wait, because, oh man, this story was fantastic. City of Miracles was a bittersweet yet fitting end to this series.

After the sudden, unexpected death of Shara Komayd—who was one of my favorite characters—Sigurd is left with one goal in mind. However, when the Divine are involved, you never know what might happen. The actual plot of City of Miracles was awesome. Every time I thought I would take a break and set this book aside, I got to a good part. I basically stayed up well past midnight finishing it. There were so many twists, so many revelations that not only was this book exciting, it was packed full of action.

City of Miracles picks up years after the last book, and a lot of things have changed. In the last book, the progression of technology replacing divine miracles was being shown in its early stages. But change is slow and sometimes painful, and people want to cling to what they know. That is one of the things I truly liked about this series: its approach to progress, and the way these things gradually took place. City of Miracles also marked the return to Bulikov, the city surrounded by mysterious walls filled with stairs that went nowhere. It wasn’t the same as before, but again, that’s progress.

Sigrud je Harkvaldsson has had a role each time something inexplicable happened, but City of Miracles was where his story was front and center. There was always an air of mystery to him, and like so many other things about this series, City of Miracles answers those lingering questions. And yeah, I cried a little at the end, but in my defense emotions were running high in almost every scene.

I’m a little sad that this series is over. However, I can’t say that I’m sorry because City of Miracles was a good note to end on. Truly, it was an experience.

Rating 5/5

This copy of the book was provided by Blogging for Books (publisher) for this review, thank you!
About the author...

Robert Jackson Bennett is a two-time award winner of the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel, an Edgar Award winner for Best Paperback Original, and is also the 2010 recipient of the Sydney J Bounds Award for Best Newcomer, and a Philip K Dick Award Citation of Excellence. His fifth novel, City of Stairs, is in stores now. He lives in Austin with his wife and son. He can be found on Twitter at @robertjbennett...
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