Audiobook, Book Club, historical fiction, Reading Plan

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah


Winter GardenTitle: Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
Format: Kindle Edition (401 Pages)
Genre:
Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction, World War II (Russia)
Blurb:
Can a woman ever really know herself if she doesn’t know her mother?

From the author of the smash-hit bestseller Firefly Lane and True Colors comes a powerful, heartbreaking novel that illuminates the intricate mother-daughter bond and explores the enduring links between the present and the past Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. One stayed at home to raise her children and manage the family apple orchard; the other followed a dream and traveled the world to become a famous photojournalist. But when their beloved father falls ill, Meredith and Nina find themselves together again, standing alongside their cold, disapproving mother, Anya, who even now, offers no comfort to her daughters. As children, the only connection between them was the Russian fairy tale Anya sometimes told the girls at night. On his deathbed, their father extracts a promise from the women in his life: the fairy tale will be told one last time—and all the way to the end. Thus begins an unexpected journey into the truth of Anya’s life in war-torn Leningrad, more than five decades ago. Alternating between the past and present, Meredith and Nina will finally hear the singular, harrowing story of their mother’s life, and what they learn is a secret so terrible and terrifying that it will shake the very foundation of their family and change who they believe they are.

I considered DNF’ing this book a number of times except that I don’t like to not finish novels. I’m glad I finished it as I really enjoyed the last 40% of the book. It started really slow and I didn’t really care for the characters but my opinions shifted along the way.

I’m trying not to stand in judgment because war and loss must really break something in some people’s spirit and soul. Unless I have experienced that kind of torment, anguish and despair, I can’t really expect them to act like what I consider “normal” parents. The mother in me didn’t like Anya as a mother to young Nina and Meredith. I also blame her and her husband for her Children’s inability to connect with their significant other later in life. The mother in me later wept with Anya and was amazed at how she survived the horrific things the Nazi put them through and it helped put Anya’s behavior in a different context. I love Historical Fiction (and Romance) books and it never ceases to amaze me the amount of reserve inner fortitude most human beings have. World War II books have very similar themes of constant hunger, fear, bombings, separation from loved ones etc. Yet after all the horrific tales, the survivors still stand. They may be irreparable damaged but they are in my opinions still the victors of the war.

I think Anya’s husband should have bridged this gap a lot earlier. So I guess I will shift my judgment and blame on him because at the end of the day, the formative years of Nina ans Meredith was full of emotional neglect and he could have helped more. That play scene must have been very devastating to children who just want their parents love and admiration. I wish the author did flashbacks through out the book to build the two experiences of Anya instead of waiting late into the book to give us a glimpse into a mother’s pain. I loved the ending though it was a bit farfetched.


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Contemporary Romance, Reading Plan, Review Books, romance

Girl Gone Viral (Modern Love #2) by Alisha Rai @alisharai


Title: Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai
Series: 
Modern Love #2
Release Date:
April 21st 2020 by Avon
Format:
Kindle Edition (400 Pages)
Genre:
Contemporary Romance, New Adult
Blurb:
In Alisha Rai’s second novel in her Modern Love series, a live-tweet event goes viral for a camera-shy ex-model, shoving her into the spotlight—and into the arms of the bodyguard she’d been pining for.

OMG! Wouldn’t it be adorable if he’s her soulmate???

I don’t see any wedding rings [eyes emoji]

Breaking: #CafeBae and #CuteCafeGirl went to the bathroom AT THE SAME TIME!!!

One minute, Katrina King’s enjoying an innocent conversation with a hot guy at a coffee shop; the next, a stranger has live-tweeted the entire episode with a romantic meet-cute spin and #CafeBae is the new hashtag-du-jour. The problem? Katrina craves a low-profile life, and going viral threatens the peaceful world she’s painstakingly built. Besides, #CafeBae isn’t the man she’s hungry for…

He’s got a [peach emoji] to die for.

With the internet on the hunt for the identity of #CuteCafeGirl, Jas Singh, bodyguard, friend, and possessor of the most beautiful eyebrows Katrina’s ever seen, comes to the rescue and whisks her away to his family’s home. Alone in a remote setting with the object of her affections? It’s a recipe for romance. But after a long dating dry spell, Katrina isn’t sure she can trust her instincts when it comes to love—even if Jas’ every look says he wants to be more than just her bodyguard…

Amazon · Apple Books · Google Play Books · Barnes & Noble · Walmart eBooks · Indigo

                                                    

This one was very different from book 1 but I still loved it. If you don’t remember her, Katrina was introduced in book 1 as the silent partner and friend to Rhiannon, the heroine in book one of this series. We got the little tidbits about Katrina being a recluse, but not the full explanation as to why.

In this sequel, Katrina is trying her hand at making a love match. However, she isn’t finding that zing of attraction that she feels when she is around her bodyguard Jas. She is determined to find someone who returns her affections so when a chance meeting occurs with a handsome stranger at a cafe, Katrina tries to shoot her shot. What happens as a result exposes the very private Katrina on the internet. To buy time for the attention to die down, Katrina’s bodyguard Jas whisks her away to his family farm and that is when both characters really begin to open up and see what’s been in front of them the whole time.

The writing was really engaging and dynamic. The author deals with their mental health issues with sensitivity and grace, so I was really able to empathize with the main characters. Katrina and Jas were dealing with issues that made trusting others very difficult but they clearly don’t have trouble trusting with each other. Their subplots with their respective families added another layer of intrigue to this story. I learned a few cultural things thanks to Jas’s family. The grandfather reminded me of my own.

The pacing of this story made the romance more believable because these are very cautious and skittish individuals. Imagine a turtle slowly poking their head out of their shell and being to take steps. Each step revealed the characters were always aware of the other and tried their best to meet the other’s need. They were pretty good at communicating with the other. The dual pov made the romance more authentic because the reader got to follow the character’s mental and emotional journey.

I thought there was an excellent balance with the romance and their individual growth/healing. I am always a fan of love stories where the characters grow and make the choice to fight for their own happiness. I enjoyed the slow burn and ultimately the happy ending. This series proved to be a hit for me and I can’t wait for the next book.

Audiobook, Book Club, Reading Plan, Review Books, Suspense & Thriller

Stay by Catherine Ryan Hyde


StayStay by Catherine Ryan Hyde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An unforgettable novel about the power of friendship and kindness by the New York Times bestselling author of Pay It Forward.

In the summer of 1969, fourteen-year-old Lucas Painter carries a huge weight on his shoulders. His brother is fighting in Vietnam. His embattled parents are locked in a never-ending war. And his best friend, Connor, is struggling with his own family issues. To find relief from the chaos, Lucas takes long, meandering walks, and one day he veers into the woods.

There he discovers an isolated cabin and two huge dogs. Frightened, he runs. And the dogs run with him. Lucas finds unusual peace in running with the dogs, and eventually he meets their owner, Zoe Dinsmore. Closed off and haunted by a tragic past, Zoe has given up. She doesn’t want to be saved. She wants out. But Lucas doesn’t want her to go, and he sees an opportunity to bring more than one friend back into the light. It’s either the best or worst idea he’s ever had, but Lucas isn’t giving up on Zoe or Connor.

Their unexpected connection might be the saving grace that Zoe thought she’d lost, that Connor needs, and that Lucas has been running toward.

This book really made an impact on me. It featured a brave young teenager, Lucas Painter, amongst a number of broken people like his best friend Connor and a community neighbor Zoe. This story was set during Vietnam so the author addressed issues such as depression, physical disability issues and addictions.
Lucas was the real MVP in this story, along some pets (2 dogs and a cat). Despite his own issues, he tried his best to be supportive of those around him who had serious issues.

The biggest thing that I took from this book is that it takes strength to keep going. When a tragedy occurs, there are two types of forgiveness that we look for: Forgiveness from the ones we hurt, and Forgiveness from ourselves. It focused on how connection to others as well as ourselves. Forgiving yourself for hurting someone or punishing yourself for hurting someone is part of many people’s journey after a traumatic event. This book dealt with it in a humane yet emotionally intense way.

This is a well written and poignant story life, the good, the bad and the ugly. Even the ending wasn’t perfectly wrapped up with a pretty bow. But for all the people in the story, their redemption was due to the relationships and connections they formed with others. A very thought provoking story.

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Audiobook, Book Club, Fiction, Monday Book Club, Reading Plan, Suspense & Thriller

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens


Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

BLURB: How long can you protect your heart?

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

I didn’t love this story like others did. I did love this story as a testament to survival and human resilience. Kya Clark grew up in an abusive home with an alcoholic father who beat the mom and later the siblings. Eventually the mom and remaining siblings all ran away leaving a 7-yr old Kya alone with an alcoholic father. She managed to survive even after he dad, dodging CPS sent social workers and managed to live on her own at the marsh. She became friends with Tate and later with Chase, the murder victim. Both relationships have profound effects both positive and negative on her development and her life. But it was her relationship with Chase that landed her on trial for his murder.

The writing of the character Kya was interesting. I felt sorry for her for most of the novel, but she wasn’t a victim or maybe she started out as a victim but adapted to her circumstances. While she was lonely, Kya was able to actually thrive in her circumstances. I do think the author’s story became too unbelievable both in Kya’s abilities but in the apathy of the small community. I mean, No one cared that a little 7-year-old girl was by herself? She came to get groceries or books by herself and no one asked her how they could help her or if there was an adult around. I didn’t buy it. 

Nevertheless, this story wasn’t a love story but there was love, true love here. I saw this book as Kya’s Journey without much guidance from a mother or father, but learning to navigate society by spying from the outskirts. Learning how to be a woman from watching others etc.
That’s what I enjoyed most about this book.
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Blogger Themes, Reading Plan

Monthly in Review (July 2018)


July Reading is in the books!

I was on vacation and I had some family emergencies but I managed to get almost all of my books read except for the only paperback I took on the cruise. I enjoyed most of the books except Geekerella. I was truly disappointed with that one. I will now write my reviews for the top rated books. Expect them in the next week. Did you complete your reading plan?

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Started but Haven’t finished: