Review: A Change of Heart

A Change of Heart, Sonali Dev

Published September 27th 2016 by Kensington

Paperback, 352 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

28439392Dr. Nikhil ‘Nic’ Joshi had it all—marriage, career, purpose. Until, while working for Doctors Without Borders in a Mumbai slum, his wife, Jen, discovered a black market organ transplant ring. Before she could expose the truth, Jen was killed.

Two years after the tragedy, Nic is a cruise ship doctor who spends his days treating seasickness and sunburn and his nights in a boozy haze. On one of those blurry evenings on deck, Nic meets a woman who makes a startling claim: she received Jen’s heart in a transplant and has a message for him. Nic wants to discount Jess Koirala’s story as absurd, but there’s something about her reckless desperation that resonates despite his doubts.

Jess has spent years working her way out of a nightmarish life in Calcutta and into a respectable Bollywood dance troupe. Now she faces losing the one thing that matters—her young son, Joy.  She needs to uncover the secrets Jen risked everything for; but the unforeseen bond that results between her and Nic is both a lifeline and a perilous complication.

I give Sonali Dev a ton of credit just for the premise of this book.  It is extremely brave to start out by murdering a character that was so great in your last book – The Bollywood Bride.  I think it was pretty brave to make Jen a less than perfect character.  Jen’s perspective is told in very brief snippets of her journal entries and she’s not all warm and fuzzy as one might expect a newlywed to be.  This this contrasted sharply with Nic’s crushing grief and memories of his beloved – again a really bold route for a romance.  So we find Nic trying to drink himself to death on a cruise ship  2 years after her murder when Jess comes and tries to snap him into action to find Jen’s killers in India.  

Honestly the truth of Jess’s story was pretty easy to figure out and once I knew what was coming I just couldn’t get past it.  Also as much as I liked Jess, to be truthful I didn’t want Nic to get past it either!   The poor guy was suffering enough and I was anticipating some painful moments when he found out why she was really there.  That kept me from feeling all the love between Nic and Jess the way I was meant to.   Based on the other reviews I’ve seen though I’m in the minority here – maybe maybe I just need lighter overall when I’m feeling like a romance?  Romance reading is an total escape for me so I need happy.  This was busy with sexy romance, mystery, and past heartbreaks and other readers are loving it.   

I do hope Dev continues with the Bollywood books in the way that I’m guessing because I like her characters and I like seeing the interaction between books.  I will absolutely read whatever she writes next!  I’m going to have to reread The Bollywood Affair though to get back to my own original Sonali Dev love affair.

Thank you Kensington and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review! 

2016 TBR Challenge: I Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith

Published: 1948

Source: Chicago Public Library

31122Through six turbulent months of 1934, 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain keeps a journal, filling three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries about her home, a ruined Suffolk castle, and her eccentric and penniless family. By the time the last diary shuts, there have been great changes in the Mortmain household, not the least of which is that Cassandra is deeply, hopelessly, in love.

Ok so I’m basically failing at our self made 2016 TBR Challenge.  But if I’m going down without reading those 10 books, at least I picked up I Capture the Castle.  This was just a delightful read.  I almost felt like I was a kid meeting Anne Shirley for the first time again. Or Emily Starr and the letter bills that she filled with her writings.  So if you enjoy either of those LM Montgomery heroines you should definitely pick up I Capture the Castle.  

Yes, Cassandra’s family is kind of ridiculous, but they have a lot of charm.  I kind of wanted to poke her father and hug her stepmother – but I still enjoyed them all!  Maybe I didn’t love how things played out between Cassandra and her sister, though that could be simply because my sister is my favorite and I couldn’t do those things!  This was a short, sweet and sometimes silly read.  Definitely one I needed this year.  If you need a book to put a smile on your face leading into November I definitely recommend this one.  I just spotted Primary Colors on my bookshelf – now more than 10 years waiting to be read. Maybe that will have to be my next challenge attempt for a swing in the opposite direction…

Review: June

June, Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

Published May 31st 2016 by Crown

Hardcover, 400 pages

Source: Blogging for Books

 

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Twenty-five-year-old Cassie Danvers is holed up in her family’s crumbling mansion in rural St. Jude, Ohio, mourning the loss of the woman who raised her—her grandmother, June. But a knock on the door forces her out of isolation. Cassie has been named the sole heir to legendary matinee idol Jack Montgomery’s vast fortune. How did Jack Montgomery know her name? Could he have crossed paths with her grandmother all those years ago? What other shocking secrets could June’s once-stately mansion hold?

Soon Jack’s famous daughters come knocking, determined to wrestle Cassie away from the inheritance they feel is their due. Together, they all come to discover the true reasons for June’s silence about that long-ago summer, when Hollywood came to town, and June and Jack’s lives were forever altered by murder, blackmail, and betrayal.

I absolutely loved Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s last book, Bittersweet, a dark and kind of gothic summer romance and mystery.  I couldn’t wait to dive into more family secrets in June.  I’m always fascinated by a plot with a mysterious will.  When it’s the will of a movie star with a fortune – even better!  

When we meet Cassie she’s living alone in her grandparents mansion in rural Ohio.  She’s inherited the home after her beloved grandmother’s death and she’s holed up and letting the world pass her by.   I admit I  was a bit frustrated with Cassie at first.  I wanted her to do something – anything! So it was much easier to be drawn back into the past to the story of the young and beautiful June, Jack the movie star, and Lindie the girl across the street. As I became more caught up in the past it helped me to become more interested in Cassie’s modern mystery and I was glad when Cassie started getting caught up in the past as well.  I liked getting June’s story through Lindie rather than June herself.  Lindie was quite the observer and I think gave a much richer perspective than June would have. 

This was a slow burn, but Beverly-Whittemore ended in directions that I didn’t expect at all with both the past and modern stories.  What I really loved was the personality that the old house had.  Not in a creepy haunted house way at all – more a romantic and mystical presence.  This is definitely a good book to sit and finish the summer with!

Thank you Blogging for Books for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

Why I’ve Fallen for Sydney Chambers

I’m totally head over heels for Grantchester.  The fact that the BBC Sydney looks like this doesn’t hurt.  

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Usually I’m a book before film girl, but I don’t mind having this face already in my head when I’m reading Sydney’s adventures. I really enjoyed Sydney Chambers and the Shadow of Death and the follow-up Sydney Chambers and the Perils of Night did not disappoint.  Here’s the scoop of Sydney’s adventures in book two:

The loveable full time priest and part time detective Canon Sidney Chambers continues his sleuthing adventures in late 1950’s Cambridge. Accompanied by his faithful Labrador Dickens, and working in tandem with the increasingly exasperated Inspector Geordie Keating, Sidney is called on to investigate the unexpected fall of a Cambridge don from the roof of King’s College Chapel; a case of arson at a glamor photographer’s studio; and the poisoning of Zafar Ali, Grantchester’s finest spin bowler, in the middle of a crucial game of cricket. As he pursues his quietly probing inquiries, Sidney also has to decide on the vexed question of marriage. Can he choose between the rich, glamorous socialite Amanda Kendall and Hildegard Staunton, a beguiling German widow three years his junior? To help him make up his mind Sidney takes a trip abroad, only to find himself trapped in a complex web of international espionage just as the Berlin Wall is going up. Here are six interlocking adventures that combine mystery with morality, and criminality with charm.

Who would have expected Cambridge could be the scene of such murderous intrigue?  Again the book reads as it was almost made to be a BBC show but it works well while reading.  The mysteries are just long enough and just deep enough for an evening’s reading – but if you want to think deep thoughts you are left with the issues of post-WWII England including racism, homophobia, and the fight against communism.  But there’s still romance, and romantic betrayal, friendship and of course Dickens – the loyal black lab.  I am looking forward to more Sydney both on my tv screen and in book 3!  I’m very curious to see where the second season of the show goes based on the changes they made from the book.  

Thank you Bloomsbury USA for this copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

Review: All the Missing Girls

All the Missing Girls, Megan Miranda

Kindle Edition, 384 pages

Expected publication: June 28th 2016 by Simon & Schuster

Source: e-ARC from publisher via NetGalley

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Megan Miranda’s novel is a nail-biting, breathtaking story about the disappearances of two young women—a decade apart—told in reverse.

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.

When I heard this was a mystery told in reverse I was really unsure how I’d feel about it.  I have to say that this book was basically a mind fuck. We start in the present as Nicolette returns to her rural home town of Cooley Ridge to help convince her ill father to sell her childhood home.  She leaves her fiancé behind and he’s unaware that Nicolette will be facing down both memories of her high school best friend’s disappearance and her physical high school boyfriend who she’s never really said goodbye to.

We then go two weeks into the future when there’s been another disappearance and Nicolette is being told to run – I won’t tell you who from. The book goes through each day and then flashes back again.  This was such a great way to tell a mystery!  I thought that I had everything figured out as Nic flashed back through each day – and I was always wrong! I loved how Miranda was able to drop clues that made so much sense in the end but totally threw me off as I was reading.  

If you need a summer thriller this is it!  Suspenseful and well written – definitely one to read at the beach!

Thank you Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

#WeekofReviews My Lady Jane

My Lady Jane, by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

Published June 7th 2016 by HarperTeen

Kindle Edition, 512 pages

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The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.

I’m so torn about what to say about My Lady Jane.  I loved this concept – I loved how these authors turned history on its head and gave Lady Jane Grey a happier story.  I actually liked Jane mostly – I always love a heroine bookworm!  But at the same time this book made me a bit crazy as I was reading.  I wasn’t expecting magic!  The magic was fun, it just threw me for a loop!  This book was really funny at times and yet so silly I couldn’t take it at others.  The romance between Jane and Gifford was just too cheesy for me, too fast and I wanted to slap Gifford every time I read “Call me G.”  

Bottom line, this book was crazy inventive and a really fun idea.  The snark, the feminism – all great!  I am very curious to see if the Lady Janies put their heads together again and if so, what chapter of history will they revise?  I’d definitely read another book from them, but My Lady Jane I don’t need to read again.  Again, I’m finding myself a black sheep on this book so if you like the concept definitely give My Lady Jane a try.  While it is a long book at 500 pgs it flew to read.  I have to say as a teen I think I’d have loved this – maybe I’m getting too old for YA?  Don’t answer that! 

Have you read My Lady Jane?  Did you swoon over G?  Is there a time we get too old for YA?  I weep at the thought! 

Thank you HarperTeen and Edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

Review: My Best Friend’s Exorcism

My Best Friend’s Exorcism, Grady Hendrix

Published by Quirk Books, May 17, 2016

Hardcover 336 pages

Source: Review copy from publisher

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Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act…different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

Despite the fact that I don’t read horror, I really loved Grady Hendrix’s last book Horrorstor – it was gross and funny and completely clever.  My first thought when I received his new book was “Oh My God this guy has the coolest looking books!”  As Horrorstor looks like an Ikea catalog My Best Friend’s Exorcism opens like a high school yearbook, cheesey notes and photography included.  And set in the 80’s – how could this sound more fun?!

My Best Friend’s Exorcism has some of the same highlights as Horrorstor.  It was just scary enough, it was smart and also gross!  Actually really gross at some points but definitely entertaining.  Gretchen and Abby’s story will take you back to high school – to absent parents and intense friendships and trying to talk on the phone every night without your own parents catching on.  Hopefully none of your high school memories involve demonic possession though!  But Gretchen and Abby also made me remember a time when high school friendships fixed everything.  This story became life or death serious, but Hendrix still keeps a bit of levity with the 80’s references and over the top details.  This was just a fun read even when scary.  When you want a book that takes you back to the Breakfast Club and doesn’t take itself too seriously pick up My Best Friend’s Exorcism.  

Thank you Quirk Books for this copy in exchange for an honest opinion!  

Review: Sweetbitter

Sweetbitter, Stephanie Danler

Publication: May 24th 2016 by Knopf

Hardcover, 368 pages

Source: ARC gifted from a friend

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“Let’s say I was born when I came over the George Washington Bridge…”

This is how we meet unforgettable Tess, the twenty-two-year-old at the heart of this stunning first novel. Shot from a mundane, provincial past, she’s come to New York to look for a life she can’t define, except as a burning drive to become someone, to belong somewhere. After she stumbles into a coveted job at a renowned Union Square restaurant, we spend the year with her as she learns the chaotic, punishing, privileged life of a “backwaiter,” on duty and off. Her appetites—for food, wine, knowledge, and every kind of experience—are awakened. And she’s pulled into the magnetic thrall of two other servers—a handsome bartender she falls hard for, and an older woman she latches onto with an orphan’s ardor.

These two and their enigmatic connection to each other will prove to be Tess’s hardest lesson of all. Sweetbitter is a story of discovery, enchantment, and the power of what remains after disillusionment.

I think this is my favorite read of 2016 so far.  I don’t think I’m ever going to feel the same way dining out at a nice restaurant.  Tess leaves her childhood home and her life as she’s known it behind at 22 and heads to New York to find her adult path.  She almost never looks back.  She lucks into an apartment to share and a job at an unnamed restaurant in Union Square where she’s hired as a backwaiter.  The training, the hazing, the bar towels, the wine, the food, the semi-incestuous staff relationships, the management, the FOOD, the drugs.  So many things are going on in a restaurant and I had no idea!

Tess navigates new friendships and toxic relationships with the bravado and bluster every 22 year-old should have.  She’s brave and she’s thoughtless and I just loved her story.   The writing is intense and enthralling.  I loved the slips into stream of consciousness as Tess lived out her days at the restaurant.    

Once you admit you want things to taste like more or better versions of themselves – once you commit to flavor as your god – the rest follows.  I started adding salt to everything.  My tongue grew calloused, abraded, overworked.  You want the fish to taste like fish, but fish times a thousand.  Times a million.  Fish on crack.  I was lucky I never tried crack.

Read this with a glass of wine – skip the crack.  Then come talk to me about it!  I’m going to be reading this again soon and then hoping to be out at a great restaurant watching the staff.

Review: Britt-Marie Was Here

Britt-Marie Was Here, Fredrick Backman

Publication: May 3rd 2016 by Atria Books

Hardcover, 336 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

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Britt-Marie can’t stand mess. She eats dinner at precisely the right time and starts her day at six in the morning because only lunatics wake up later than that. And she is not passive-aggressive. Not in the least. It’s just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention.

But at sixty-three, Britt-Marie has had enough. She finally walks out on her loveless forty-year marriage and finds a job in the only place she can: Borg, a small, derelict town devastated by the financial crisis. For the fastidious Britt-Marie, this new world of noisy children, muddy floors, and a roommate who is a rat (literally), is a hard adjustment.

As for the citizens of Borg, with everything that they know crumbling around them, the only thing that they have left to hold onto is something Britt-Marie absolutely loathes: their love of soccer. When the village’s youth team becomes desperate for a coach, they set their sights on her. She’s the least likely candidate, but their need is obvious and there is no one else to do it.

Thus begins a beautiful and unlikely partnership. In her new role as reluctant mentor to these lost young boys and girls, Britt-Marie soon finds herself becoming increasingly vital to the community. And even more surprisingly, she is the object of romantic desire for a friendly and handsome local policeman named Sven. In this world of oddballs and misfits, can Britt-Marie finally find a place where she belongs?

Anyone who talks to me about books will realize I haven’t shut up about Fredrick Backman’s A Man Called Ove.  That book touched my heart and since then Backman is someone I recommend often for an excellent and feel good read.  

I first met Britt-Marie in Backman’s My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You I’m Sorry – and I wasn’t sure I was entirely a fan of her.  She’s a bit of a nag bag, to borrow Backman’s term, and not really a happy person.  But once you start to learn her story you see how Britt-Marie found herself slipping away and why she’s become so persnickety and prickly.  

Britt-Marie leaves her boorish husband Kent behind and takes the only job offered to her, heading the recreation center in the dying town of Borg.  Britt-Marie despises soccer, which of course is the one true love of the residents of Borg and she finds herself coaching the children’s soccer club so that they can play in a local tournament.  You can guess where this goes, but I don’t think you will be entirely correct.  

So was this a bit cheesy  – for sure.  Did I eat it up with a spoon and love it as it went down – completely.  Britt-Marie was not as curmudgeonly as my beloved Ove and perhaps not so complicated, but I still adored her in the end.  I will say Backman left me nervous until the very end about what lessons Britt-Marie had learned and how brave she could be.

So when you want a feel good read – no tears this time – read Britt-Marie Was Here!

Thank you Atria Books and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

Review: Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, James Runcie (The Grantchester Mysteries #1)

Paperback, 400 pages

Published January 13th 2015 by Bloomsbury USA

Source: Copy from Publisher

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Sidney Chambers, the Vicar of Grantchester, is a thirty-two year old bachelor. Sidney is an unconventional clergyman and can go where the police cannot.

Together with his roguish friend Inspector Geordie Keating, Sidney inquires into the suspect suicide of a Cambridge solicitor, a scandalous jewellery theft at a New Year’s Eve dinner party, the unexplained death of a well-known jazz promoter and a shocking art forgery, the disclosure of which puts a close friend in danger. Sidney discovers that being a detective, like being a clergyman, means that you are never off duty . . .

How did I not know about Grantchester?  A swooningly handsome English vicar with his loyal black lab puppy getting involved in murder mysteries in the 1950’s – yes please.  Meet tv Sidney:

 

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With that image in mind I am happy to sacrifice my imagination to the BBC’s fine work.  I decided to dive into the books before checking out the tv series  and found myself reading a book that almost feels like it was written to become a tv series. The Shadow of Death was not one mystery but a series of somewhat interconnected stories.  As Sidney gets pulled in by the police we meet his friend Inspector Keating, his grumpy housekeeper, his love interests and his family.  I love the setting of England recovering from the war and the internal conflict of Sidney the war hero with the upright vicar.  You feel Sidney’s initial reluctance to become involved in police business then turning to excitement as he gets more involved in each case.  I can’t put my finger on why – but something reminded me of my beloved Flavia de Luce – maybe the slight grumpiness that gets into Sidney at times?

And obviously here’s where I was sunk – when Sidney is gifted a puppy he is told:

“There is nothing like a Lab for company, and the black are better for conversation I find.”

Loki - Always listening for conversation

Loki – Always listening for conversation

I am looking forward to seeing if the stories grow any deeper in the second book in the series, after all now the stage has been set and Sidney’s supporting characters largely revealed.  I’m very curious about where dualing love interests will head

Now the biggest question is – do I binge Season One of Grantchester before or after reading more Sidney?  Are you reading or watching this series?  Let me know!

Thank you Bloomsbury USA for this copy in exchange for an honest opinion!