Wednesday, July 24, 2019

If You Want to Make God Laugh - Book Review

Thanks to G.P. Putnam's Sons for the complimentary copy
 of If You Want to Make God Laugh.

The end of Apartheid. Nelson Mandela has been elected the president of South Africa. AIDS is becoming an epidemic.

Seventeen year old Zodwa lives in a squatter camp with her sick mother. Zodwa is expecting a baby she doesn't want and hiding a secret that could get her killed.

Dee is helping children in an orphanage in Zaire but when she gets word that Daniel is dying she return home to South Africa for the first time in over forty years.

Ruth stages her own suicide attempt to win back her husband but he is unmoved and she has no where else to go except home to the farm she hopes to sell. But her sister has returned and has no intention of selling the home she left as a teen to become a nun.

Binding them all together is a baby boy.

*  *  *  *  *

I very much enjoyed Bianca Marsais's novel Hum If You Don't Know the Words that released in 2017 so I was thrilled to get the opportunity to read her newest novel If You Want to Make God Laugh. Besides the long titles, the books stand out with the colorful covers and call to me. They immediately draw me in with the South African settings and their rich characters.

If You Want to Make God Laugh captured my attention from the first page and the pacing of short chapters kept me turning the pages late into the night. The plot is emotional and thrilling but the characters, broken and determined, made me fall in love with the novel. I read with my heart in my throat as they struggled to make the best of the terrible situations. Each character was motivated by love and they felt deeply human.

It's a world without fairy tale endings, but If You Want to Make God Laugh offers hope. It is a journey of emotion--a beautiful book that tells a story I won't soon forget.

If You Want to Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais is published by G.P. Putnam's Sons and released on July 18, 2019. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Song of the Jade Lily - Book Review

Thanks to William Morrow and Harper Collins Publishers for a 
complimentary copy of The Song of the Jade Lily.

Alexander goes home to Australia to say goodbye to her dying grandfather before beginning her new work assignment in Shanghai. Her grandparents, Romy and Wilhelm raised her after her parents died in an accident and she loves them dearly but she's always felt a part of herself missing. Her mother was adopted from China and she hopes to fill in the blanks and find her birth family while in Shanghai.

Romy and her parents arrived in Shanghai in 1939, fleeing their homeland after the infamous Kristallnacht. Romy meets the beautiful Li with the incredible singing voice and the two become close friends. But the war comes to Shanghai and soon their lives are threatened and their friendship is torn apart.

A copy of The Song of the Jade Lily by Kristy Manning has been sitting on my shelf for a few months but I didn't get to it before it's release date and it got bumped by other novels. So when I saw the audio come available on my library app, I decided to listen instead. I was pretty quickly immersed in the world of Romy and Li. World War II stories are almost always intriguing and the setting of Shanghai gives it a unique and new feeling--setting it apart from many other World War II stories.

Shanghai was fascinating and the characters were so vulnerable and yet resilient. Romy, especially, captured my heart and she tried to exist in the new reality of life in a new country and the war that found her. Manning has written a thoroughly enjoyable novel filled with love, danger and secrets.

The novel is long but it moves at a steady pace and it was very good as an audio book. The narrator, Saskia Maarleveld, did a good job bringing the story to life.

The Song of the Jade Lily by Kristy Manning was published by William Morrow and released on May 14, 2019.

Monday, July 22, 2019

The Golden Hour - Book Review

A big thank you to William Morrow and Harper Collins Publishers 
for a complimentary copy of The Golden Hour.

In the early years of World War II, Lulu Randolph has been assigned to report on the comings and goings of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The glamorous couple have captured the world's attention and all the gossip magazines after he gave up the throne of England to marry the divorcee Wallis Simpson. Recently widowed, Lulu is thrilled to move to Nassau. It's a fresh start for her and a plum assignment covering the rich and famous.

But things in the Bahamas aren't just elegant parties in a tropical paradise. Lulu begins to unravel the dangerous secrets of espionage, bad financial deals and murder all while falling in love with the brilliant Benedict Thorpe, botanist and possible spy.

I enjoy Beatriz Williams's novels. They all involve lots of layers to the plot and stories that weave together in surprising and wonderful ways. Her newest novel, The Golden Hour is the same. It has delicious story telling with epic love stories and loads of intrigue and danger. They're all a little fantastical but I admit that I fall for the romance.

Like her other books, The Golden Hour has split timelines with two distinct stories weaving together at the end. Sometimes the back and forth is exhausting for me as a reader and I can only read the novel in stretches of time before I need a break. I just can't sprint through her novels even when I'm completely enjoying them. I especially reveled in the closer look at the Windsors.

The Golden Hour delivered just what I wanted and expected from a Beatriz Williams novel.

The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams is published by William Morrow and released on July 9, 2019.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Saturday Night Ghost Club - Book Review

I got a complimentary copy of The Saturday Night Ghost Club from Penguin. Thanks!

Jake Baker is an awkward twelve year old with no friends and too many bullies. He spends most of his free time with his Uncle C who owns a novelty shop specializing in the occult in the 1980's town of Niagra Falls. That summer Jake will befriend the new kids to town and even though he suspects they will become his tormentors as soon as school starts, he enjoys welcoming the siblings into his Saturday Night Ghost Club.

Craig Davidson is an amazing storyteller. The Saturday Night Ghost Club is a fun and emotional coming-of-age story that was simultaneously thrilling and thought provoking. Set in an era, when kids still roamed the streets on bicycles and came home only for dinner, the book allows the young characters to be vulnerable and adventurous with freedom to roam. It was a great read to quell the hole after I finished watching Stranger Things 3.

The novel is short but so packed with skilled storytelling. And while it sets up as many coming-of-age stories, Jake, Billy and Dove are unique characters richly developed and bursting with adolescence and the coming adulthood. The Saturday Night Ghost Club wraps up in ways I didn't expect but left me marveling and changed.

The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson is published by Penguin and released July 9, 2019.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Milady - Book Review

I received a complimentary copy of Milady by Laura L. Sullivan from Berkley Publishing.

I heard about the new book that would tell Milady de Winter's side of the story several months ago and thankfully it was enough time for me to get and read Alexandre Dumas's The Three Musketeers in preparation.Though I hadn't read it yet, I was somewhat acquainted with the reputation of Milady and I was intrigued by the idea of telling the story from the famous villainess's perspective. The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my very favorite books so I was expecting a lot from The Three Musketeers. I ended up alternating between reading a paper copy, an ebook and listening to the audio version over the past few months and finally finished it last week. As soon as I was finished, I picked up Milady.

Milady by Laura L. Sullivan gives voice to one of literature's most wicked characters. In the classic novel, using her wiles and the men that fall for her seductions, Milady kills with abandon and skill. But how did she become this evil woman? Sullivan starts at the beginning.

So different from what I usually read, I wasn't sure what to expect but I found myself totally taken in with Lady de Winter and her story of intrigue and deception and how a once innocent girl became the agent of the Cardinal and the nemesis of Artagnan and his musketeers. Sullivan weaves an exciting tale that pulled me in and made me question everything I knew of the "heroes" of Dumas's famous novel. The story has everything.

It was definitely helpful that I had recently become acquainted with The Three Musketeers. I think Milady could stand alone but I feel Sullivan has written a story that means more with the background information from the original novel. If you haven't read The Three Musketeers yet, get a copy from the library just so you can enjoy Sullivan's novel.

Milady by Laura L. Sullivan is published by Berkley Publishing and released July 2, 2019.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Gifted School - Book Review

Thanks to Riverhead Books for the complimentary copy of The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger.

A new exclusive gifted school is being built in the pristine town of Crystal, Colorado and every parent wants the opportunity for their child. To gain admissions into this elite school, children must first test high and if they get through that first round, they must submit a portfolio with their accomplishments. Parents in Crystal are anxious to get their children admitted, including Rose and her three best friends. The group has been close friends since they met at a Mommy and Me swim class eleven years ago but now this new school and the pressures to get their kids admitted may split them apart.

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger was a delicious read. The toxic behavior of the parents is despicable and yet all too familiar. While we've been judging Hollywood moms for paying huge bribes to get their kids admitted to colleges, we can't dismiss the bad behavior of  "snowplow parents" helping to get their kids in the best schools and on the best teams and in the best programs. Holsinger's novel explores this parental behavior in his compulsively readable novel.

I packed The Gifted School with me to the pool. It's a great summer read with all its drama, satire and bad behavior from people who should know better. It also has a lot of valuable themes for analysis. It's not only a beach read but would make a fabulous novel for a book club discussion.

I really enjoyed the novel. There was one reveal in the end that didn't work for me even though there had been plenty of foreshadowing and I saw it coming. I've had a few days since I finished reading the book to mull over my thoughts about the ending and have decided that it didn't ruin the novel. It was a lot of fun and it's for sure the best "parents behaving badly" novel since Moriarty's Big Little Lies.

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger is published by Riverhead Books and released on July 2, 2019.

Monday, July 8, 2019

After the End - Book Review

Thanks to Putnam for a complimentary copy of After the End by Clare Mackintosh.

Max and Pip love each other and their precious son. Their marriage is strong--built on years of deep friendship and understanding. But when their son is sick and is still sick after so much treatment, the doctors put the decision in the parents' hands. Max and Pip can't agree.

After the End by Clare Mackintosh moves in a pace similar to her previous thrillers but is an emotional and tender journey. I read the majority of the book one Friday night and then woke early on Saturday morning to finish. Mackintosh created characters who are deeply human--they love and they mourn and they strike out at those they love when they are hurting. The story is very real and very haunting. It's a compelling and heartrending journey.

Mackintosh employs an interesting and surprising structure halfway through the book that initially caught me off guard but that I found to be an intriguing study of "what ifs". I have enjoyed Clare Mackintosh's thrillers but After the End stuck with me.

After the End by Clare Mackintosh is published by Putnam and released on June 25, 2019.