Monday, January 25, 2016

"The Two-Family House:A Novel" by Lynda Cohen Loigman

Lately I have been really into historical fiction and women's fiction books. Just like my taste in music, my taste in books changes constantly. My most recent historical/womens's fiction read is debut author's Lynda Cohen Loigman's The Two-Family House

This book I requested from Netgalley and I will admit that it took me a little bit to get into this story. It wasn't until I was about 23% in that it got really interesting and I was immediately hooked. Like to the point where I was daydreaming about the story when I wasn't reading it. It was worth the easing into.

This novel is about two families-  Mort & Abe are brothers who run a box company together and share a house that has been made into two apartments. Mort and his wife, Rose, live downstairs in the apartment they share with their 3 daughters. Abe and his wife, Helen, live upstairs with their 4 sons. These families could not be more different. Both Rose & Helen find themselves pregnant at the same time. Rose desperately wants a son, while Helen wishes for a little girl. The night these two women give birth change the lives of all those around them.

The reason this book was so good is because of Loigman's perfect description of all the character's feelings and emotions. This story is told through different family members perspectives and each character's side of the story is filled with a complex mixture of emotions and thoughts. This family is highly complex (like most families are)- through joy, pain, anger, resentment, bitterness, secrets, and tragic loss I was taken on the journey of everyday life with the family. So basic, yet so compelling, it really puts into perspective how important family is and how easily family can change how you feel and think about the world that exists outside your front door.  

Each character was so highly complex but so fully developed I felt like I knew each one personally. I was quick to take sides with a character during a chapter, only to switch sides during the next chapter when the story is told through different eyes. These were highly memorable characters. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.  

I, the reader, knew there was a secret to be told throughout the entire book, yet Loigman left just enough mystery to keep me reading. I was dying to know when this secret would come to light or even if it would ever come to light. I saw each character's relationship with one another grow stronger and/or start to unravel. The way Loigman brought together and told the stories of such complicated relationships has me thinking about this book long after I turned the last page. I look forward to following Lynda Cohen Loigman and her writings. I hope she has many more stories to tell and novels to write.

The Two-Family House: A Novel is set to be released March 8, 2016. If you want a quick, yet meaningful read please pre-order it now!

Thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin's Press, and author Loigman for allowing me to read and review this impressive debut book. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

"Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet" by HP Wood

The year is 1904 and it's the start of the busy tourist season on Coney Island. Kitty Hayward arrives on the island, with her mother, by steamship from South Africa. Her mother takes ill at the hotel they are staying in and Kitty goes into the city to get medicine for her. When she returns her mother is know where to be found and the staff act as if both she and her mother have never checked in. Kitty, penniless and alone in a new country and strange city, befriends a group of "unnusuals" (side show performers) at Megruder's  Curiosity Cabinet. It is a strange type of museum full of oddities from around the world. The people who frequent Megruder's are also an odd bunch themselves. 

There is Zeph, the half man with no legs, who oversees all happenings at Megruder's. Ro, the half man-half woman who lives in a room upstairs and Dr. Timur, the mad scientist who spends his time in the attic with crazy experiments. Spencer, Nazan, and Archie are the regular "dozens" (as in a dime a dozen- "normal people") who choose to be friends with the side show performers. As the plague sweeps through the area this unlikely group must band together to help find Kitty's mother and also stay safe from contracting the plague.

This book... I loved it so much! Turn of the century combined with circus-like, sideshow characters are what lead me to request this from Netgalley and I thank Sourcebooks Landmark for approving me to read it! 

Author H.P. Wood does a marvelous job writing the characters and settings in (from what I can tell) her debut novel. Margruder's Curiosity Cabinet is full of characters I loved, characters I hated, and characters I just can't get out of my head. The entire plot is so well described and thought out. Full scene and character development really makes this book phenomenal. Add in a mystery and a bit of historical relevance and was hooked! I found myself wishing for free time to get back to reading. The entire book was mysterious and suspenseful right up until the last page. 

I highly suggest adding this book to your TBR list. It is due to be released June 1, 2016. It was so much fun to read!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Aziz Ansari's "Modern Romance"

Whether you are a single 20 something or a parent of a tween, teen, or single 20 something you need to treat 'yo self to Aziz Ansari's book Modern Romance. As a married mother of 3, I decided to read this book simply because I love Ansari's comedy and thought it would be a fun read-or in my case listen. The audio book was read by Aziz Ansari himself, which I loved. I never thought I would actually learn anything relevant to my life from this book. 

The audio version is tailored to the listener and  Ansari hilariously lets the listeners know how lazy they are for not actually reading the book themselves. He also states that the audio version lacks the graphs, pictures and charts from the romance studies talked about in the book. So yes, you get all of the humor and sarcasm listening to Ansari read to you via audio book, but you also don't get the full experience of pictures and graphs to accompany the read. The choice is yours.

As stated before, I am the mother of 3 boys. My oldest is a teenager, and I am sure dating is just around the corner. I never realized until listening how relevant everything in this book would be to a mother raising sons who will be dating in these modern times. Let's just say that the dating years seem like yesterday to me and I had no idea so much had changed since the late 90s/early 00s. 

This isn't just Ansari's humor on dating in the modern age. This non-fiction book is filled with research based on numerous stidies, surveys and group experiments and discussions. Ansari took writing this book seriously teaming up with a leading sociologist who both "took to the streets" talking to normal, everyday people to get the scoop on dating past versus present. 

Interviewing both elderly, happily married couples, and their single offspring, you really get the entire image of dating through the decades and how much it has changed. Things that are acceptable now (such as breaking up via text message) seems so wrong on all levels even to me (a mid 30 something woman). This really opened my eyes to what to expect and what the social norms are for when my children start dating.

Today's generation are so connected online that physical social interaction is "stale". The younger generation is unsure how to make small talk, or in some instances, prefer not to. It was so strange hearing young subjects explain how they are basically clueless about to how to interact on a date. It was shocking to hear Ansari basically tell readers/listeners the basics of appropriate communication! Basic common sense skills seemed to be lacking in many young research subjects. It made me realize the things I need to be teaching my sons. Things I thought were common sense may in fact need to be taught to my young men.

Most of the book is focused on modern romance- why is it so hard to find a quality mate in times when everyone is literally at our fingertips? What are the differences singles look for in a mate now as compared to older times? Have expectations regarding the future-love-of-our-lives been set so high we make it impossible for anyone to fit the bill? Have the social norms made it so there are more happily single people in the world who never want to get married? These questions and more all are answered by current research and Ansari's personal, humorous adventures in dating.

Some of the book seemed repetitive, but it was overall great information. It takes a brief look at dating and marriage facts from around the world which I found very interesting. I also enjoyed hearing stories from older generations about how they met their spouse. Most met within a radius of just a few blocks from where they grew up, married within a year, had children, and are still married to this day. Such a drastic contrast from dating and marriages nowadays.

If you are currently single, a parent, or just interested in how things have changed in the romance department throughout the years, I highly recommend this book. It's informative and humorous which is the prefect combination. A 4 star read for me!

Happy Reading!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

"The Girls In The Garden: A Novel" by Lisa Jewell

***Since publishing my blog post the title and cover of this book has changed***

Words cannot explain to you how much I loved this book. It is a beautifully crafted suspense/family drama/physiological thriller. Thank you so much to Netgalley and Atria Books for allowing me an advanced copy to read and review. So let's get talk about this phenomenal book.

Dark secrets, a devastating mystery and the games people play: the gripping new novel from the bestselling author of The House We Grew Up In and The Third Wife.

You live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses.

You’ve known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly.

You think your children are safe.

But are they really?

Midsummer night: a thirteen-year-old girl is found unconscious in a dark corner of the garden square. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?

Utterly believable characters, a gripping story and a dark secret buried at its core: this is Lisa Jewell at her heart-stopping best.

I read the description and knew I had to read it. Once I started reading I was hooked. The characters are so well written. Character descriptions, both physical and emotional, really created complete characters that I could perfectly imagine in my mind. Bit by bit I was introduced into a widely different cast of characters that all live around this gorgeously described private park. 

Throughout the story Jewell gives small glimpses into the thoughts of one of the main characters, Pip, by way of letters to her estranged dad. Her no-holds-barred letters fill her father in on her new and complicated life. She pours her heart out to him about things she finds interesting, things she finds disturbing, and emotions she feels while navigating her pre-teen life with a new house, new friends, and new challenges. I loved that the letters also included little drawings done by Pip. It made it feel even more realistic. One of the many great small details in this novel. 

This book begins with a horrific event. I knew from the start that something bad has happened. I was then taken back to the start of it all, what lead up to the event. Little clues that made me question every character. I wasn't sure who could be trusted. I had my suspicions about "who did it", but then with a turn of a page the story twists and my suspicions were cast on a new character.

This novel is about relationships- mothers and daughters, sisters and sisters, daughters and fathers, friends and neighbors. How all relationships are somehow intertwined. Lies are told (sometimes little, sometimes big), truths are warped, and no one knows the complete story unless they are directly involved.

This story took so many twists and turns I truly was guessing at the outcome right up until the very end. Wonderfully written, completely relatable, and vividly described. Bravo Lisa Jewell!

Please add this to your TBR list. I really think you will love it as much as I did. The Girls: A Novel is set to be released June 7, 2016 here in the United States. You won't want to miss it!

Happy Reading! 

2015/2016 Goodreads Reading Challenge

Goodbye 2015 and hello 2016! It's a new year which means we have 365 days to get reading! I am disappointed to report that my reading goal for 2015 was NOT met. I was 2 books short of my 80 book goal. No worries though, I am pretty proud that this busy mother of 3 managed to not only read 78 books, but also write reviews on every single one! 

So this year my goal is once again 80 books! I am sure that this year I can do it! Do you set a book goal every year? Are there any books being released this year that you are excited to read? Let me know so I can add them to my shelves!

On another note, this blog turned 1 year old yesterday! Stay tuned because I have 2 book reviews to (hopefully) get done today. An ARC I actually finished NYE 2015 and another nonfiction I finished yesterday.

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!