Book Reviews · Recommendations

Inheriting Edith by Zoe Fishman

Inheriting Edith
By: Zoe Fishman

Book Cover

Published: January 2016
Published by: William Morrow Paperbacks

Format Read: Trade Paperback
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Rating: 3/5

Note: I won a copy of Inheriting Edith by Zoe Fishman, from the publisher via Goodreads Giveaways. This is my honest review.

Synopsis

A poignant breakout novel, for fans of J. Courtney Sullivan and Elin Hilderbrand, about a single mother who inherits a beautiful beach house with a caveat—she must take care of the ornery elderly woman who lives in it.

For years, Maggie Sheets has been an invisible hand in the glittering homes of wealthy New York City clients, scrubbing, dusting, mopping, and doing all she can to keep her head above water as a single mother. Everything changes when a former employer dies leaving Maggie a staggering inheritance. A house in Sag Harbor. The catch? It comes with an inhabitant: The deceased’s eighty-two-year old mother Edith.

Edith has Alzheimer’s—or so the doctors tell her—but she remembers exactly how her daughter Liza could light up a room, or bring dark clouds in her wake. And now Liza’s gone, by her own hand, and Edith has been left—like a chaise or strand of pearls—to a poorly dressed young woman with a toddler in tow.

Maggie and Edith are both certain this arrangement will be an utter disaster. But as summer days wane, a tenuous bond forms, and Edith, who feels the urgency of her diagnosis, shares a secret that she’s held close for five decades, launching Maggie on a mission that might just lead them each to what they are looking for.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Inheriting Edith follows a single hardworking mother who un-expectantly inherits a house, after the death of a former friend. The only stipulation is that she must become a caregiver for the woman’s elderly mother.

This was a quick contemporary fiction that I flew through. It was exactly the pace I was looking for at the time. I could easily relate to the main character Maggie, as she dedicated herself to making a better life for her child. Newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, Edith was rightly frustrated with her situation and I thought that she was aptly depicted. The brief glimpses of her backstory were interesting as well.

The author presented a story with many points that covered difficult subject matter. Things that could have made for a very emotional reading experience. Unfortunately, in the end, I found this novel just fell flat in those aspects. Issues and potential storylines that could have been more deeply explored, were only briefly touched on. The ideas were there and I believe the author possesses the ability to craft a more in-depth novel, however this was not the case here.

While I enjoyed Finding Edith for the quick story it was, it did leave me somewhat unfulfilled. This book touches on the following topics that might triggers some readers; suicide, grief and mental illness. However they aren’t deeply explored and might not have the impact heavier books with the same topics, might have.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Clap When You Land
By: Elizabeth Acevedo

Book Cover

Published: May 2020
Published by: HarperTeen
Format Read: eBook, Libby App.
Genre: YA Lit, Contemporary, Poetry

Rating: 5/5

Synopsis

In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Books written in verse isn’t a style I generally gravitate to, however I have heard rave reviews about this author and this novel, so I decided to borrow it from my library.

Clap When You Land is an emotional story of two sisters meeting for the first time after the tragic death of their father. Elizabeth Acevedo took inspiration for this book from a real life tragedy; the crash of flight AA587 in November 2001, which shook the Dominican community in New York. As the two young women wrestle with their grief and the aftermath of their discoveries, I too wrestled with how I felt about their father’s duplicitous life. This moral dilemma would make for a great discussion for book clubs.

I appreciate the diversity that Camino and Yahaira’s story presents, as well as the stark contrast between life in America and the slums of the Dominican Republic. Yet at the same time the author highlighted the traditions and beliefs that were brought to America by immigrants from their homeland. I also found the customs and traditions of the mourning in this culture to be interesting. The meaning behind passengers clapping when they land was profound and made for a great title for the novel.

I would highly recommend Elizabeth Acevedo’s Clap When You Land to fans of the genre who enjoy reading about diverse characters. For those who may be leery to read a book in verse, I say give this one a try. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Note: Content warning for those who may be triggered by such things as; sexual assault and grief.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite & Maritza Moulite

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine
By: Maika Moulite & Maritza Moulite

Book Cover

Published: September 2019
Published by: Inkyard Press
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Fiction

Rating: 4/5

NOTE: I won a copy of Maika Moulite and Maritza Moutlie’s Dear Haiti, Love Alaine, from the publisher via Goodreads Giveaways. This is my honest review.

Synopsis

Co-written by sisters Maika and Maritza Moulite, and told in epistolary style through letters, articles, emails, and diary entries, this exceptional debut novel captures a sparkling new voice and irrepressible heroine in a celebration of storytelling sure to thrill fans of Nicola Yoon, Ibi Zoboi and Jenna Evans Welch!

When a school presentation goes very wrong, Alaine Beauparlant finds herself suspended, shipped off to Haiti and writing the report of a lifetime…

You might ask the obvious question: What do I, a seventeen-year-old Haitian American from Miami with way too little life experience, have to say about anything?

Actually, a lot.

Thanks to “the incident” (don’t ask), I’m spending the next two months doing what my school is calling a “spring volunteer immersion project.” It’s definitely no vacation. I’m toiling away under the ever-watchful eyes of Tati Estelle at her new nonprofit. And my lean-in queen of a mother is even here to make sure I do things right. Or she might just be lying low to dodge the media sharks after a much more public incident of her own…and to hide a rather devastating secret.

All things considered, there are some pretty nice perks…like flirting with Tati’s distractingly cute intern, getting actual face time with my mom and experiencing Haiti for the first time. I’m even exploring my family’s history—which happens to be loaded with betrayals, superstitions and possibly even a family curse.

You know, typical drama. But it’s nothing I can’t handle.

My Thoughts

Sister writing duo Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite draw inspiration from their own Haitian-American upbringing in their debut novel. Readers follow high school senior Alaine as she is sent to her family’s homeland of Haiti after a political scandal and suspension from school.

I had never read a book set in Haiti before, nor did I know much about that culture. I also learned more about the separation (and lack thereof) between the wealthy and those living in poverty in this island country. The vibrant descriptions of the setting were fascinating.

Alaine was a strong female lead with a personality and sarcastic sense of humor, that I could relate to. The multi-media format this book was told in (included; emails, messages, articles and written assignments) made for a quick and enjoyable reading experience.

I was initially leery about the storyline involving the family curse and its historical significance, as this isn’t something that generally interests me. However my curiosity about the final outcome and how it all came together really drew me in.

I would highly recommend Dear Haiti, Love Alaine to those who enjoy reading about strong young women who are intelligent and ambitious. I look forward to reading more from these authors in the future.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vanishing Half
By: Brit Bennett

Narrated by: Shayna Small

Book Cover

Published: June 2020
Published by: Penguin Audio

Format Read: Audiobook, Audible
Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half follows the lives of The Vignes twins and the opposite paths they follow. Their stories present a comparison of a lower class African American women to that of her sister who passes as white and lives a privileged life among with her wealthy husband. Readers follow a timeline that spans the 1950’s to the early 1990’s.

I was drawn to this book as I was very interested in the descriptions of society from these two different situations. If I had to use a word to describe The Vanishing Half, I would say that it is a quite read. The events (especially those that were more traumatic) were told in a way that made them seem less shocking and more mater-of-fact. I think that some readers might be turned off by this style of writing. However I thought that Brit Bennett’s use of metaphors showed her talent as an author, beautifully.

Shayna Small’s narration of the characters felt authentic and did justice to the story. Although I thought the ending was abrupt, I would reccommend Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half to those interested in diverse historical fiction. I would also advise caution to those who may be sensitive to such trigger warnings as domestic abuse.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy

Lumberjanes
Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy
By: Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, Brooklyn Allen, Maarta Laiho, Aubrey Aiese

Book Cover

Published: April 2015
Published by: BOOM! Box
Format Read: eBook, Libby App.
Genre: Graphic Novel, Comics, Fantasy, Young Adult

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis

FRIENDSHIP TO THE MAX!

At Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s camp for hard-core lady-types, things are not what they seem. Three-eyed foxes. Secret caves. Anagrams. Luckily, Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer together… And they’re not gonna let a magical quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! The mystery keeps getting bigger, and it all begins here.

Collects Lumberjanes No. 1-4.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

I picked up this graphic novel on a whim when I saw it was available at my local library via the Libby App. I had heard rave reviews about this first installment and the series as a whole, when it was released. However I didn’t pay much attention to it as I had never been interested in graphic novels before. Thankfully I decided to give it a shot as it was such a fun reading experience.

I was surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. Although you don’t get as much written detail in this format, the cast of characters are vibrant and unique. If I had to compare it, I would say that Lumberjanes is a combination of Percy Jackson meets a sarcastic troop of Girl Guides. It was clever and humorous, with some great themes. Although I felt it ended abruptly, I am really looking forward to reading the second installment of this series soon.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Mother/Daughter Buddy Read 1: Secrets of the Lighthouse

Growing up reading was a big part of my childhood. In fact I would say that my love for books came from both of my parents, although my reading taste is more similar to that of my Mom’s. One of our favourite things to do together is to share and talk about books.

While unpacking my numerous boxes of books I discovered that I had two copies of Santa Montefiore’s Secrets of the Lighthouse. I gave one copy to my mom and kept the other for myself. We decided to both read it at the same time and so we officially did our first Mother/Daughter buddy read.

Secrets of the Lighthouse
By: Santa Montefiore

Book Cover

Published: January 2013
Published by: Simon Schuster
Format Read: Hardcover
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis

Ellen Trawton is running away from it all—quite literally. She is due to get married to a man she doesn’t love, her job is dragging her down, and her interfering mother is getting on her nerves. So she escapes to the one place she know her mother won’t follow her—to her aunt’s house in rural Ireland. Once there, she uncovers a dark family secret—and a future she never knew she might have.

Meanwhile, Caitlin Macausland is mourning the future she can never have. She died tragically in what the village thinks is suspicious circumstances, and now she is stuck in a limbo, unable to move on.

And between the two of them is an old lighthouse—the scene of so much tragedy. Can each woman find the peace she so desperately longs for? And can they find the way to live again?

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Secrets of the Lighthouse follows Ellen Trawton, a privileged woman who runs away to Ireland and discovers a family she didn’t know she had. Meanwhile the rural seaside town she escapes to is defined by family loyalty and tradition.

My Mom and I have both read Santa Montefiore in the past. While we both enjoyed The Girl in the Castle, I did find it to be drawn out. Thankfully I did not find this novel to be this way. We found the descriptions of the small Irish village to be beautiful and the reading experience was made even more enjoyable by being able to discuss it as we read along.

There is a supernatural element to this storyline that I was unsure of at first. However in the end I thought that the author presented it in a way that was thought provoking.

My Mom and I both recommend Secrets of the Lighthouse by Santa Montefiore to fans of contemporary fiction, with a pinch of magical realism. We both look forward to reading more from this author and sharing more buddy reads in the future.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The New Elizabeth (Sweet Valley High 63) by Francine Pascal

The New Elizabeth
(Sweet Valley High, 63)
Created by: Francine Pascal
Written by: Kate William

Book Cover

Published: January 1990
Published by: Bantam Books
Format Read: Paperback

Genre: Series, YA Lit, Middle Grade

Rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis

If one more person calls Elizabeth Wakefield responsible or predictable, she’ll scream! In an effort to prove that she can be as adventurous as Jessica, her daring identical twin, Elizabeth secretly decides to take up surfing. That will show her friends she knows how to take risks.

But from the start, Elizabeth’s new hobby causes problems. She has a sneaking suspicion that her surfing instructor is falling in love with her. And even worse, she has to lie to her steady boyfriend, Todd, in order to keep her surfing a surprise. Todd’s becoming suspicious and angry — and Elizabeth is beginning to wonder if a daredevil reputation is worth the trouble after all.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

I uncovered The New Elizabeth in a box of old books from my childhood. I remember really enjoying the stories about identical twins and followed them from their adventures as kids, right up to university. Elizabeth was always my favorite sister, which is probably why I’ve held on to this copy after all these years. Even at a young age I related more to her introverted personality than to the more spontaneous and outgoing Jessica. However in this installment Elizabeth wants to prove that she can be adventurous too by learning how to surf.

Although this was originally released in the 1980s, I think that the plot will still interest its target audience today. I would say that The New Elizabeth would be appropriate for older middle grade readers or younger teens. 

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Explosive Eighteen (Stephanie Plum 18) by Janet Evanovich

Explosive Eighteen
(Stephanie Plum, 18)
By: Janet Evanovich

Book Cover

Published: November 2011
Published by: Bantam
Format Read: Hardcover
Genre: Mystery, Contemporary, Series

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis

Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum’s life is set to blow sky high when international murder hits dangerously close to home, in this dynamite novel by Janet Evanovich.

Before Stephanie can even step foot off Flight 127 from Hawaii to Newark, she’s knee deep in trouble. Her dream vacation turned into a nightmare, she’s flying back to New Jersey solo, and someone who sounds like Sasquatch is snoring in row 22. Worse still, her seatmate never returned to the plane after the L.A. layover. Now he’s dead, in a garbage can, waiting for curbside pickup. His killer could be anyone. The FBI, the fake FBI, and guns-for-hire are all looking for a photograph the dead man was supposed to be carrying.
 
Only one other person has seen the missing photograph—Stephanie Plum. Now she’s the target, and she doesn’t intend to end up in a garbage can. With the help of an FBI sketch artist Stephanie re-creates the person in the photo. Unfortunately the first sketch turns out to look like Tom Cruise, and the second sketch like Ashton Kutcher. Until Stephanie can improve her descriptive skills, she’ll need to watch her back.
 
Over at the Bail Bonds Agency it’s business as usual—until the bonds bus serving as Vinnie’s temporary HQ goes up in smoke, Stephanie’s wheelman, Lula, falls in love with their “largest” FTA yet, lifetime arch nemesis Joyce Barnhardt moves into Stephanie’s apartment, and everyone wants to know what happened in Hawaii?!

Morelli, Trenton’s hottest cop, isn’t talking about Hawaii. Ranger, the man of mystery, isn’t talking about Hawaii.  And all Stephanie is willing to say about her Hawaiian vacation is . . . It’s complicated.

My Thoughts

After becoming tired with the Stephanie Plum series, I decided to take a break, so it has been a long time since I’ve picked up one of these novels. It was nice to be reunited with the dysfunctional bounty hunter and her quirky friends, family, collogues and skips.

As I always find these books to be exciting and entertaining. And while I will continue to read the series, once again there wasn’t much growth or advancement in the life of the main character, aside from a new hairstyle. Unfortunately this has become an ongoing issue I’ve had and I don’t foresee anything changing in book nineteen. Another small problem I had was in the title; Explosive Eighteen. I do understand the alliteration and how it fits into the theme of the series, I think that there were previous installments that had more memorable explosions.

Still, I would recommend Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series to fans of quick, fast paced contemporary fiction.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

The Wives
By: Tarryn Fisher

Book Cover

Published: December 2019
Published by: Graydon House
Format Read: eBook, Libby App
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

Rating: 5/5

Synopsis

New York Times bestselling author Tarryn Fisher delivers a pulse-pounding, fast-paced suspense novel that will leave you breathless. A thriller you won’t be able to put down!

Thursday’s husband, Seth, has two other wives. She’s never met them, and she doesn’t know anything about them. She agreed to this unusual arrangement because she’s so crazy about him.

But one day, she finds something. Something that tells a very different—and horrifying—story about the man she married.

What follows is one of the most twisted, shocking thrillers you’ll ever read.

You’ll have to grab a copy to find out why.

My Thoughts

In 2019 when Tarryn Fisher’s The Wives was released, I remember other bloggers and BookTubers mentioning it, but it didn’t really catch my attention at the time. If I hadn’t joined a local book club, I would have missed out on one of the most binge-worthy books I’ve read in a long time.

I couldn’t put this psychological suspense down! Tarryn Fisher had me captivated from the start. Although some readers felt unsatisfied with the ending, I thought it was still 5 star worthy. I highly recommend The Wives and can’t wait to read more from this author.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Firefly Lane
By: Kristin Hannah

Book Cover

Published: February 2008
Published by: St. Martin’s Griffin
Format Read: Paperback
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance, Contemporary Fiction, Dual Timeline, Historical Fiction

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis

From the New York Times bestselling author Kristin Hannah comes a powerful novel of love, loss, and the magic of friendship. . . .

In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the “coolest girl in the world” moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all—beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed to be forever uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn. Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer’s end they’ve become TullyandKate. Inseparable.

So begins Kristin Hannah’s magnificent new novel. Spanning more than three decades and playing out across the ever-changing face of the Pacific Northwest, Firefly Lane is the poignant, powerful story of two women and the friendship that becomes the bulkhead of their lives.

From the beginning, Tully is desperate to prove her worth to the world. Abandoned by her mother at an early age, she longs to be loved unconditionally. In the glittering, big-hair era of the eighties, she looks to men to fill the void in her soul. But in the buttoned-down nineties, it is television news that captivates her. She will follow her own blind ambition to New York and around the globe, finding fame and success . . . and loneliness.

Kate knows early on that her life will be nothing special. Throughout college, she pretends to be driven by a need for success, but all she really wants is to fall in love and have children and live an ordinary life. In her own quiet way, Kate is as driven as Tully. What she doesn’t know is how being a wife and mother will change her . . . how she’ll lose sight of who she once was, and what she once wanted. And how much she’ll envy her famous best friend. . . .

For thirty years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship—jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they’ve survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart . . . and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test.

Firefly Lane is for anyone who ever drank Boone’s Farm apple wine while listening to Abba or Fleetwood Mac. More than a coming-of-age novel, it’s the story of a generation of women who were both blessed and cursed by choices. It’s about promises and secrets and betrayals. And ultimately, about the one person who really, truly knows you—and knows what has the power to hurt you . . . and heal you. Firefly Lane is a story you’ll never forget . . . one you’ll want to pass on to your best friend.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Firefly Lane is a coming of age novel about two friends who meet as teenagers in the 1970s. Readers follow Tully and Kate as they mature and follow their dreams through the 80s, 90s and early 2000’s. I admit that I moved this title up to the top of my book pile at the release of the Netflix show. Although I did find Kristin Hannah’s Winter Garden to be more engrossing, Firefly Lane will definitely be included on my list for the best reads of the year.

I think that both Tully and Kate have characteristics that readers will be able to relate to. Although they are polar opposites, I appreciate how the author explored their flaws as much as their strengths. My favourite aspect of Firefly Lane was how each decade felt authentic in its portrayal. From the world events to the fashion and popular culture references, Kristin Hannah does an excellent job of transporting her readers back in time.

I highly recommend Firefly Lane to fans of this author and those who enjoy stories of lifelong friendships.