Publisher: Berkley Books

Guest Review: Other People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman

Posted March 26, 2018 by Lily B in Reviews / 17 Comments

Happy Monday everyone! Got Sophia Rose on the blog today with a review of Other People’s Houses. Totally exciting to see what she thinks of it myself because I am going to be listening to my copy in the near future. Enjoy!

Guest Review: Other People’s Houses by Abbi WaxmanOther People's Houses by Abbi Waxman
Series: standalone
Published by Berkley Books on April 3rd 2018
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

"Abbi Waxman is both irreverent and thoughtful."--#1 New York Times bestselling author Emily Giffin
And now the author of The Garden of Small Beginnings returns with a hilarious and poignant new novel about four families, their neighborhood carpool, and the affair that changes everything.
At any given moment in other people's houses, you can find...repressed hopes and dreams...moments of unexpected joy...someone making love on the floor to a man who is most definitely not her husband...
*record scratch*
As the longtime local carpool mom, Frances Bloom is sometimes an unwilling witness to her neighbors' private lives. She knows her cousin is hiding her desire for another baby from her spouse, Bill Horton's wife is mysteriously missing, and now this...
After the shock of seeing Anne Porter in all her extramarital glory, Frances vows to stay in her own lane. But that's a notion easier said than done when Anne's husband throws her out a couple of days later. The repercussions of the affair reverberate through the four carpool families--and Frances finds herself navigating a moral minefield that could make or break a marriage.

After the thoroughly engaging The Garden of Small Beginnings, I was pleased to settle back into the writing world that this author can create.

Other People’s Houses is a different style standalone story than the other, though happily there are a few minor crossover scenes. This one is a wry, varnish free up close and personal with four families in a typical middle-class LA neighborhood.

The main narrator is middle-aged, even-keeled Frances Bloom. Frances is comfortable and content. Well, as content as is probably possible- she has the squabbles with her teen daughter, the extra weight that never left after the kids came, the usual spousal disagreements, and the occasional wonder ‘is this my life?’, but yes, overall, she can’t complain. She enjoys being a stay at home, carpool mom with three kids and a comfortable marriage with a man who is more best friend than lover these days. Life is tripping along as normal until Frances comes across one of her neighbors she saw as cool, put together, and happily married, in an affair.

Anne’s affair has far reaching repercussions in her own life, her family’s, but also the neighborhood.

Suddenly people are not so content and all the neighbors are taking a closer look at themselves, their relationships and their lives. One married pair are tense as Iris wants a baby and Sara would rather not. Another married man, Bill is the butt of whispers as people wonder where his wife, Julie, has gone and Bill himself wants her with him. The kids and Charlie are reeling from Anne’s betrayal and what a broken family feels like. Meanwhile Frances and Michael are the unofficial anchors in the neighborhood, though, they do, are forced to pause and evaluate their own lives.

The rhythm of the book is slow as it meanders through all these lives and their days. The gentle pace can get soporific, but that’s where the author’s writing keeps the reader engaged. There are spot on observations, ponderings, and of course those giggle-worthy moments. This is an everyday average people story where the reader who may be middle-aged and/or a parent, a neighbor in a relatively quiet neighborhood can nod, ‘I’ve thought that’. Oh, no, it’s not everyone’s neighborhood or family life, but there is a familiarity to it, nonetheless.

The story ends on a crisis that brings things to a point so that the neighbor situations are all forced to resolve and yet, I had a curiosity for where these people will be in five years, ten, twenty… I got connected without realizing it, it seems.

It was a well-written piece of character-driven fiction. I’m very taken with this author’s writing style. Mildly engaging, a touch bitter at times, and thoughtful, flavored with the sweetness humor and wry housewife wit. I don’t think it is a book that will appeal to everyone, but it’s great if you are a people watcher and want to just sit back and observe the life in Other People’s Houses.

My thanks to the author for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Review: As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

Posted February 14, 2018 by Lily B in Reviews / 11 Comments

Review: As Bright as Heaven by Susan MeissnerAs Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
Series: standalone
Published by Berkley Books on February 6th 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 400
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

From the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life and A Bridge Across the Ocean comes a new novel set in Philadelphia during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, which tells the story of a family reborn through loss and love.
In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters--Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa--a chance at a better life.
But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without--and what they are willing to do about it.
As Bright as Heaven is the compelling story of a mother and her daughters who find themselves in a harsh world, not of their making, which will either crush their resolve to survive or purify it.

Pauline and Thomas Bright drop everything behind Quakertown when they make the move to Philadelphia in 1918 because the city is the heart of new beginnings and promises.

Thomas has been asked by his uncle to come help him at the funeral home, because his uncle is getting old and does not have any children of his own, with Thomas being his favorite.

Now Pauline and her three daughters, Evelyn, Maggie and Willa have a chance at a better life as they navigate their ways around the new series and adapt to life in a funeral home. But then the ‘Spanish’ flu sweeps across the globe and as Pauline and the girls watch loved ones die around them, they take in a baby that had been orphaned by the disease and he becomes the source of their hope.

This was a story told in two parts. The first part deals with Pauline and her three girls as they move into the funeral home and how there is just so much hope in that move. Hope for a better life for herself and for her daughters, better schooling. That hope ends up being briefly crushed when Thomas, the father, get’s called by draft into serving at war and Pauline stays at the funeral home with the children as the flu sweeps across Philadelphia, claiming many lives.

It was interesting and engrossing following their lives in the funeral home as well as learning more about the events during this time, not matter how difficult it may have been. The flu ended up claiming a lot of lives of people they knew and the war changed the lives closest to them.

It is a story of family, hardships, lost, love and triumphs with the second half, a strong focus on the years following the events that drastically changed their lives.

I adored following the sister’s chapters separately because I adored how the author handled each of their stories, and how each sister grew with the events affecting their lives. It was wonderful, the writing was amazing. There is always something about Meissner’s writing that simply enthralls me and has me craving for more. I never wanted the book to come to an end. I liked the setting, I liked learning a bit about what happened in the American history during that time. The amount of death and from a funeral homes perspective was both cringe worthy and fascinating at the same time.

The characters were well fleshed out, each sister standing out on her own within their own chapter. Each sister affected not only by the flu, the death, but also by the war and the people around them.

The twist in the end that Meissner delivers about how their actions have also influenced others had been both brilliant and heartbreaking.

The story was beautiful and well told, though at times not easy to read just proves how well the author can get you so invested in the characters and the feelings that it something that stayed with me long after I was done with the pages.

I adore this author and cannot wait to see what she has to tell us next.

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Review: The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

Posted May 17, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 22 Comments

Review:  The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi WaxmanThe Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
Series: standalone
Published by Berkley Books on May 2nd 2017
Genres: Womens Fiction, Chick-Lit
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Heat:one-flame

Lilian Girvan has been a single mother for three years—ever since her husband died in a car accident. One mental breakdown and some random suicidal thoughts later, she’s just starting to get the hang of this widow thing. She can now get her two girls to school, show up to work, and watch TV like a pro. The only problem is she’s becoming overwhelmed with being underwhelmed.
At least her textbook illustrating job has some perks—like actually being called upon to draw whale genitalia. Oh, and there’s that vegetable-gardening class her boss signed her up for. Apparently being the chosen illustrator for a series of boutique vegetable guides means getting your hands dirty, literally. Wallowing around in compost on a Saturday morning can’t be much worse than wallowing around in pajamas and self-pity.
After recruiting her kids and insanely supportive sister to join her, Lilian shows up at the Los Angeles Botanical Garden feeling out of her element. But what she’ll soon discover—with the help of a patient instructor and a quirky group of gardeners—is that into every life a little sun must shine, whether you want it to or not…

I really needed something different and fun in my reading life, so when dear Heidi over at Rainy Day Ramblings personally recommended this book, I jumped at the chance to read it.

Guys, I cannot express how much I adored this book. It did exactly what I need it to do. It pulled me out of my reading slump and offered me a book with so much fun, laughter and a lot of heart.

Lilian Girvan is a widow. Her husband died a couple of years ago in a car collision right outside of their house and left Lilian with two little girls. Lilian had a hard time recovering from his death at first and actually had to be admitted to a hospital. Her sister Rachel provided a huge support network not only helping Lilian get past her husband’s death, but also in taking care of the kids.

Now Lilian is working as an illustrator and her company is hired to illustrate a gardening book. They only have one request. Lilian must take a gardening class. So after recruiting her sister and her daughters to join her in the class on weekends, Lilian’s world opens up to the great group of gardeners that might be just what the doctor ordered.

This book was fantastic. The writing was super great, super fun and I adored Waxman’s humor, it was just my kind of cup of tea. I was super surprised that this was her debut novel and also a bit disappointed because I so want more of the author’s writing. I cannot wait for her next book to come out, it is definitely going on my auto buy list.

This book is just great for the spring and summer alike. As a gardener myself. I adored the gardening aspect of the story. I also love the quirky gardening guides between the chapter breaks, they had me rolling with laughter.

All the characters were wonderful and endearing. I adored’ Lilian and her daughters. I love the interactions between Lilian and the characters – especially her two little girls. I also loved the strong sister bond between Lilian and Rachel. Really, I just loved everything about this book. The supporting extra characters in this book also just really added both heart and depth to this story.

The only thing that made this a little frustrating was the open ending. I kind of wanted to know a little more and not just where Lilian’s character was going, but also Rachel’s. I guess I could almost understand why the author wrapped it up the way she did, but I still found that I really did want that closure.

Overall, I am looking forward to more of Waxman’s writing. If you are looking to add to your summer book read, I highly recommend this one.

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Review: I See You by Clare Mackintosh

Posted March 1, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 23 Comments

Review:  I See You by Clare MackintoshI See You by Clare Mackintosh
Series: Standalone
Published by Berkley Books on February 21st 2017
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 384
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Every morning and evening, Zoe Walker takes the same route to the train station, waits at a certain place on the platform, finds her favorite spot in the car, never suspecting that someone is watching her...
It all starts with a classified ad. During her commute home one night, while glancing through her local paper, Zoe sees her own face staring back at her; a grainy photo along with a phone number and a listing for a website called FindTheOne.com.
Other women begin appearing in the same ad, a different one every day, and Zoe realizes they’ve become the victims of increasingly violent crimes—including murder. With the help of a determined cop, she uncovers the ad’s twisted purpose...A discovery that turns her paranoia into full-blown panic. Zoe is sure that someone close to her has set her up as the next target.
And now that man on the train—the one smiling at Zoe from across the car—could be more than just a friendly stranger. He could be someone who has deliberately chosen her and is ready to make his next move…

When Zoe Walker sees a picture of a woman that looks exactly like her in a classified ad for a FindTheOne.com, during her commute home from work, she finds herself more than a little concern. It doesn’t seem to help that despite the fact that she is sure that the picture is of her (but she doesn’t know where and how it was taken) her family doesn’t seem to feel the same way.

Not too long after, Zoe finds another woman that she knows of in the ad and the fact that a crime was committed against her. Soon a string of women appear, not too long after their pictures are displayed in the ad, with crimes committed against them.

Now Zoe is scared, not only for her own life, but how the ads might be related to the crimes.

This was an interesting story. It is told from the POV of Zoe Walker and also follows Kelly – a police officer that Zoe contacts about one of the women – that ends up working on the cases under a detective.

I admit, it took me a bit to get into the story and it wasn’t until about 40% in did I start to find myself invested. It felt slow at first, but once it took off I found it to be a real solid page turner.

I really liked the format of the book the most I think. I like how we got to see Zoe’s POV and how she was feeling and the fear she was dealing with while waiting for the police to do something. I also liked that we got to see Kelly in her role, while battling her own demons – and how the case slowly unfolded.

It was gripping, chilling, exciting, and nerve wrecking when it had at one point crossed my mind that things like this – can in fact happen.

It also makes me happier that I no longer take the subways in New York late at night like I use to before coming here.

Is the entire situation plausible? Maybe not. Not all women had crimes committed against them in the book, not all women followed, but there is a sense of realism to it that can feel a bit terrifying.

The ending was a bit nerve wracking and the epilogue was chilling. I wasn’t sure exactly if I agreed or liked, by the way things ended – because that part did not seem to make sense to me (about how someone like that is capable of what they did) – but nevertheless, the ending was jaw dropping and unexpected.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. Once the book started to move for me, I was immersed in the character and their stories. I wanted more, I needed to know who was behind this plan and what would come of it. As the layers peeled away, I found myself glued to the edge until the story was over.

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