Category: Contemporary Fiction

Apr 07

Lies and Other Acts of Love by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Contemporary Fiction 3

Greetings Bookworms!

I am on an absolute roll with the water works this week, you guys. I cried while watching Inside Out (expected) AND Trainwreck (unexpected). Then I cried during two different books. Not that I don’t cry a lot, because I am totally a crier, but it’s a little unusual to have so many instances of non-real-life crying in a single week. My subconscious is probably just super pissed that it’s April and it’s still pretending to be winter and icky outside. I have a point, I promise. The second book to make me cry this week was Lies and Other Acts of Love by Kristy Woodson Harvey. *I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author for review consideration. She seems super nice, but I’ll still give you an honest opinion. I’ve known you longer. And, you know, integrity, blah blah blah.*

LiesandOtherActsofLoveLynn “Lovey” White has seen a thing or twelve during her sixty years of marriage. You can’t be married that long and raise a family of five daughters without appreciating the art of the little white lie. Life hasn’t been perfect, but she’s made it work. At this point, she’d just like to see her family happy and settled. Unfortunately, her granddaughter Annabelle has been living in a whirlwind. After dumping her hedge fund manager fiance, Annabelle rebounded FAST with a musician she met and married within the week. When Annabelle’s life begins to spiral out of control, she comes to understand that things aren’t always what they seem and that difficult choices are part of this whole life gig.

Lies and Other Acts of Love was a bit of a complicated read for me. I simply adored Lovey and Dan’s story- in fact, I’d read an entire book about their life together with no complaint. The overarching themes of love being complicated and the idea that there’s often more to a fairy tale love story than meets the eye? Totally resonated with me. Great stuff.

But then there was Annabelle. You know how sometimes when you’re reading a book you want to jump into the pages and give a character a good shake? That’s how I felt about Annabelle. I don’t fault the author for this, my frustration with the character was 100% about my own personal hangups. That’s part of the fun of reading, though. Different books affect people in different ways. Annabelle drove me bonkers. She just kept making terrible choices. The fact that a single character was able to get under my skin so much is a testament to the author’s skill, though, don’t you think? I mean, most of the characters I’ve most wanted to give a stern “talking to” are out of classic novels, so if that’s any indication of quality, this was quite well done. Bottom line? If you like Southern fiction and aren’t completely jaded by the concept of love at first sight, Lies and Other Acts of Love could absolutely be a winner for you.

Soooo Bookworms, let’s talk. Tell me about some of the fictional characters that drove you bananas. Please? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. The author will also receive a commission. I think. I don’t actually know how it works with book sales. Kristy Woodson Harvey really does seem exceptionally nice, though, just in case you’re on the fence about the purchase. You probably won’t want to punch Annabelle. Clearly that’s on me.*

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Mar 10

I’m Glad About You by Theresa Rebeck

Contemporary Fiction 12

Howdy Bookworms!

Despite the fact that I occasionally whine about the fact that I live in a cornfield, (a gross exaggeration, to be honest. At least half the fields are soybeans) but I LOVE the Midwest. I love the food, I love the people. It’s far from perfect, but it’s home. I think you know where this is heading. I picked up yet another book based in no small part on the fact that it was partially set in the Midwest and starred Midwestern characters. I’m very predictable that way. I received a complimentary copy of I’m Glad About You by Theresa Rebeck for review consideration. These are my honest opinions, of course, because my integrity costs more than a free digital galley. Throw in some diamonds next time, geeze. 

imgladaboutyouAlison and Kyle were high school sweethearts in Cincinnati, Ohio. Kyle was an idealistic and religious young man seeking to change the world with a medicine. Alison wanted desperately to break away from the Midwest and pursue her dreams of becoming an actress. With their dreams pulling them in opposite directions, Kyle and Alison throw in the towel on their relationship after a tumultuous six year run. Alison goes on to get her big break in NYC while Kyle marries, starts a family, and practices medicine in Cincinnati. Though they’ve both seemingly moved on, they still can’t quite seem to shake the hold they have on each other. As their paths continue to cross they’re both forced to examine their choices and the compromises they’ve made to pursue their dreams… Even when their dreams don’t turn out the way they imagined they would.

Ooooh this book. Gosh, I can’t quite pinpoint how I feel about it. Let’s start with what I loved. My BFF lives in Cincinnati so I got way too excited reading shout outs to Graeter’s Ice Cream and Skyline Chili. I personally don’t quite get the Skyline phenomenon (don’t tell my “nephew”), but Graeter’s? SO GOOD. Plus their zoo totally has a penguin exhibit. You’d think that wouldn’t be a huge draw, but my local zoo? Zero penguins. It’s devastating. I really dug the Midwestern charm and the mention of casseroles and foods full of mayonnaise. Lemme tell you about my jello salads, y’all!

That said, I tend to have a difficult time relating to story lines that go behind the scenes of Hollywood, fame, and fortune, because it seems so foreign to me. The stories seem to be at best bittersweet and at worst fully tragic. Hence, Alison’s time in the spotlight didn’t resonate with me the way I’d hoped it would. Well, except for her diet. Hollywood, please just stooooooooooop with making the starlets get extra super skinny. They’re so hungry! Also Kyle’s approach to his Catholicism kind of confused me. Granted, it’s a pretty rules-heavy religion (a thing I know from personal experience) but he seemed to practice in the least pragmatic way possible. He’d screw something up but the choice he’d make to atone was way worse than what he’d done in the first place. The dude is a doctor but often severely lacking in common sense when it comes to his personal life.

So there you have my mixed bag o’ feelings about I’m Glad About You by Theresa Rebeck. If it sounds even remotely interesting to you, though, you should probably read it. I need someone to hash this out with.

Talk to me, Bookworms! I seem to always have trouble relating to Hollywood plots- is there a setting or situation that you run into in books that always kind of throws you?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jan 28

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Audio Books, Contemporary Fiction, Women's Studies 14

G’Day, Bookworms!

Man, do I ever love audio books. The last time I read a book by Liane Moriarty, I spent the first few chapters thinking the What Alice Forgot (review) was set in England only to be jarred when a mention of Sydney forced me to re-align my mental accent. I’m sure I would have remembered that Liane Moriarty is Australian and had that carry over into my reading of Big Little Lies, but if I’d done that, I wouldn’t have gotten to listen to a delicious Aussie accent for hours. That would have been tragic, I think. But, oh, this book!!!

biglittleliesBig Little Lies tracks the lives and scandals of the kindergarten class parents of Pirriwee Public, a beachfront Australian suburb. While a number of parents chime in, the story primarily follows three women. Madeline is a feisty 40 year old mother juggling a part time job, her three kids, and a complicated relationship with her ex husband (including his new yogi wife, and the teenage daughter they share.) Celeste is mother to a set of twin boys. She and her extremely wealthy husband cut an impressive figure at school functions, and appear near perfection… On the surface. Jane is a very young mother, new to the area. She does her best to fly under the radar with her son Ziggy, but circumstance renders that difficult.

Holy crap on a cracker, this book was amazing. I wouldn’t ordinarily go for a book so entrenched in the Mommy Wars and schoolyard scandal, but I could not get enough. Madeline, Celeste, and Jane contributed such compelling narratives to the story. It was fascinating and well crafted and deliciously deviant. A wicked sense of humor underscored some of the more traumatic story lines, making me laugh and gasp and sigh and scowl. This would make for brilliant book club fodder, my friends. Take note! (I’ve heard this is going to be made into a limited TV series for HBO. You can bet I’ll be watching!)

Talk to me Bookworms! Have any of you read this book? Those who have and are parents of school age kids, does the gossip mill portrayed in this book ring true to you?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

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Nov 18

After You by Jojo Moyes

Audio Books, Contemporary Fiction 15

Greetings Bookworms!

I hope I never see the day when I don’t love something Jojo Moyes writes. I just finished reading (with my ears) After You which is the follow up to the glorious ugly cry of a novel that was Me Before You (review.) It was pretty great. Uh, spoiler alert. Or something? Do I ever actually surprise anyone with my reviews? I mean, I can lead with “I liked it” or “It sucked” right? This isn’t school, I can do what I want!

afteryouIf you didn’t read Me Before You go do that right now. Our lovely Lou is still kind of reeling after the events of the previous book. She’s struggling to create a new life for herself, and frankly, she’s failing miserably. It’s okay, Lou, we all still love you. Sometimes things have to fall apart (again) in order for people to move forward and Louisa Clark is one plucky protagonist, believe you me. There are elements that seem a little melodramatic… Well, maybe a lot melodramatic. The thing about Jojo Moyes is that she can pull it off. Louisa isn’t a ridiculous soap opera vixen, so her reactions to some of the things that befall her are pretty amusing. It’s like “oh, I’m a normal British gal, but all this weird crap has happened and seriously, how would YOU react?”

So yeah. Basically, I loved this book, I love Louisa Clark, I love Jojo Moyes, and I love audio books. I though the narrator was fabulous, but the teeny tiny bit of American accent she had to do? It sounded really weird. I certainly couldn’t do any better, my British accent sounds farcical and wouldn’t fool anyone (except that telemarketer that one time. I told him I was the nanny. Because Mary Poppins. I am not a good person.) There have been many times when I’ve been fully fooled by an excellent British actor’s American accent. I can think of a number of times when I was all “oh holy crap, that guy has a fancy accent” when seeing said actor on a talk show, so I have operated under the mistaken assumption that American accents are easy-peasy and/or all British people are good at everything ever. I shouldn’t expect audio book narrators to be good at ALL THE ACCENTS. It just bears mentioning.

Okey Dokey, Bookworms. Tell me. What is your native accent? Can you easily detect when people are faking it?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Sep 21

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Audio Books, Contemporary Fiction 15

Happy Monday, Bookworms!

How was your weekend? Mine was lovely, especially considering I was NOT taken hostage during a swanky birthday party by an ill advised army of teenagers in an unnamed South American country. Obviously, things are going better for me than the characters in my latest read, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. This is one of those books I’ve been hearing about for a long time but took ages to get around to reading (well, listening to, in this case). Just another example of how I’ll never ever get to all the excellent books worth reading in the world. Siiiiigh.

belcantoAs I started saying earlier, this book takes place in an unnamed South American country. In an attempt to bring commerce to the blighted region, the government has arranged an elaborate birthday party for a Japanese business man in order to lure him into building a factory. The government has managed to land Roxane Coss, opera soprano of international acclaim, to perform for Mr. Hosokawa, a noted opera aficianado.

The party is crashed soon after Roxane’s performance by a ragtag army of 18 terrorists consisting largely of impoverished teenagers. Their goal was to kidnap the president, but when it turns out he is not in attendance, they take the entire birthday party full of international dignitaries hostage. Improvisation is not their strong suit. As the relatively simple goal of the terrorists is complicated by unanticipated captives, the group’s quick operation turns into a drawn out standoff.

You guyssssssssss. This book was really good. It sounds like a majorly insane downer, but it was fascinating! As time goes on, the hostages and the terrorists begin to bond in unexpected ways. It’s not Stockholm Syndrome or anything, because nobody’s been brainwashed, but it’s awfully hard to spend a large amount of time with anyone and fail to see them as individuals. I mean, the terrorists aren’t torturing or killing or maiming. They’re just forcibly detaining… With varying levels of enthusiasm. If this has been on your radar in the history of ever, if you like opera, or if you just like excellent messy moral dilemma stories, check out Bel Canto

Talk to me Bookworms! What is the WORST experience you’ve ever had at a party?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Aug 31

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

Contemporary Fiction, Family 14

Happy Monday, Bookworms!

For those of you back in the office today, I’m pleased to bring you a book about someone who is probably having a crappier day at the office than you are! A few weeks ago I was itching for something new to read when I saw A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan on NetGalley. The cover art was pretty and it was marketed toward fans of Where’d You Go, Bernadette (review) so I decided to give it a whirl. *I received a complimentary copy of this novel for review consideration.*

awindowopensAlice Pearse is a happily married mother of three living in New Jersey. She works part time for a magazine as the books editor and keeps her household running with the help of a crackerjack babysitter. Alice’s life is chugging along at a smooth clip until a major upheaval in her lawyer husband’s career path sends her back into the workforce full-time. She thinks she’s landed the job of her dreams when she is hired by fancy pants startup Scroll, an e-book retailer promising swanky cafe style reading space as well as first edition novels. Of course, things are rarely as miraculous as they seem, especially when it comes to jobs. At the same time her new career is taking flight, Alice’s dad gets sick, her marriage hits some speed bumps, and her world devolves into general chaos. When it seems like “having it all” isn’t working out the way she planned, Alice is forced to take stock and decide what it is she really wants. 

As someone who works full time but does not (yet, hopefully) have children, sometimes this type of novel falls a little flat for me. I suppose I just get frustrated many women’s reality; the fact that a work-life balance seems nearly impossible to achieve. The majority of novels I’ve read in this vein definitely tend toward favoring women scaling back their careers and focusing on their families. While I think focusing on one’s family is awesome, it bugs me that women are always the ones who are expected to scale back, a sentiment I find perpetuated in this type of novel. That’s part of why I found A Window Opens refreshing. It was very honest in its exploration of Alice’s situation and doesn’t present a super clear cut answer. It doesn’t end exactly the way I’d have liked, but at least it doesn’t preach the value of a particular lifestyle. Alice focuses on what Alice wants and what will make Alice happiest. I can get behind a story like that.

What do you think, Bookworms? When you’re reading books about working moms, do you feel that a certain solution is presented as ideal? Do you ever wonder why there are so few books about men’s work-life balance? (Look at me getting all feminist up in here today. Whew.)

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Aug 20

We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Contemporary Fiction 3

Hello My Darling Bookworms,

One of the very first books I ever reviewed on Words for Worms was The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (which you can read HERE if you’re so inclined.) I loved that book. Adored it, even. That’s why I was so extra super excited when I saw that Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s sophomore novel We Never Asked for Wings was available on NetGalley. I snapped that puppy up faster than you can say “Mexican feather art.” Not that that’s a thing you would ordinarily say, but it makes sense within the context of this book so I’m going with it. *I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration through NetGalley. I was not compensated in any way and all the opinions expressed are my own. They’re also honest as heck because I have no filter.*

weneveraskedforwingsWe Never Asked for Wings revolves around the Espinosa family. Letty Espinosa has been working three jobs for 14 years in the San Francisco area to help support her family. Her parents are undocumented Mexican immigrants and when Letty found herself pregnant as a teenager, her parents stepped in to raise her son, Alex, and later her daughter, Luna. When her parents decide to move back to Mexico, Letty is left trying to navigate life assuming full responsibility for her children and her role as sole breadwinner.

Alex and Luna are struggling with the implications of their grandparents’ move as well. They are as unaccustomed to Letty as she is to them. Alex funnels his frustration into schoolwork and a budding romance. Luna responds with the sort of clinginess only a 6 year old can offer. When Letty comes up with a plan to improve the family’s situation and get her children out of their dangerous school district, one wrong move could send their whole world spinning out of control.

When your first novel is a showstopper, it can be tough to follow up, but Vanessa Diffenbaugh does it with aplomb. We Never Asked for Wings visited some of the themes and tones that made The Language of Flowers such a great book while still differentiating itself as a great stand alone novel. If you’re in the mood for an emotionally wrenching yet ultimately heartwarming read, you need to check out We Never Asked for Wings!

Let’s chat, Bookworms! What are some of your favorite sophomore novels? What are some that have disappointed you? (Because I always answer myself, my biggest disappointment in a sophomore novel to date was Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield… Review here if you dare.)

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jul 30

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Contemporary Fiction, Family 11

Greetings Bookworms!

I typically have no idea what’s going on in publishing. I don’t know who gets big advances or whose cover art is the coolest or why they change the cover art when they go from hardcover to paperback or from North America to Europe. Luckily, from time to time, someone throws me a bone. I remember hearing all about how amazing Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng was so I was really excited when the publisher contacted me about the paperback release and offered me a copy. A real live book and not a digital copy. Who’d have thunk it? *I received a complimentary paperback copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. The following review will express my honest opinion even though I got something for free. My integrity costs more than a paperback, swearsies.*

everythinginevertoldyouLydia Lee is the teenage daughter of a Chinese American History professor and a caucasian homemaker in 1970s small town Ohio. She’s also dead, which you find out in the first sentence, so that’s not a spoiler at all. Lydia was the favorite child of James and Marilyn, each attempting to live out their dreams vicariously through their daughter. When Lydia’s body is discovered at the bottom of a lake, the Lee family is shattered. Their delicate dynamics are toppled and they are left reeling.

I know, I know. When you start off with a dead teenager it sounds like the book is going to be a total downer. Go beyond the first few pages, however, and you will be drawn into a beautifully rendered complex family. Marilyn and James along with their two other children Nath and Hannah each have their own experiences with Lydia that allow the reader a multifaceted view of the enigmatic central character. I know, I know. This review starting to sound like a lame school assigned book review. The book is really fabulous, though, and I can’t find Katie-ish words to describe it. Readers who enjoyed The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold will dig Everything I Never Told YouTrust me on this, okay?

Talk to me Bookworms! Lydia Lee is the type of character that everyone in her family thinks they understand, but nobody truly does. Have you ever felt that people just didn’t get you? I mean, beyond your teen angst years. Because let’s face it. You didn’t know you yet either and that’s a terribly unfair double standard.

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jul 14

MOAR Audio Book Mini Reviews

Audio Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fairy Tales, Fantasy 16

Howdy Howdy Bookworms!

I’ve been reading with both my eyes and my ears this summer. Reading with your ears is totally a thing that counts. I REFUSE to accept that audio books don’t count as reading. Poppycock! Of course, not every book I read (with eyes or ears) is something I feel like writing a whole review about, so today we’re taking audio books in bite sized pieces. Om nom nom!

audiominireviews

 

1. I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg- I normally adore Fannie Flagg, but I’ve got mixed feelings about this book. The main character spends a good portion of the novel plotting out her suicide only to continually put it off to tie up loose ends in the land of the living. The story was cute, I guess, but I worry that it was a little too flippant with some really heavy issues.

2. The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman- Well thank heaven they finally explored the niffin situation! That has been bothering me since The Magicians (review). I thought this final installment of the series tied things up rather nicely, without being too neat about it. I’m still worried about Lev Grossman’s fox fixation, though. Dude. For real.

3. Mirror Mirror by Gregory Maguire- You know how when you read original fairy tales they’re way creepier than you remember the Disney-fied versions being? Multiply that factor by 5 when Gregory Maguire gets his mits on Snow White, and you’ll have Mirror Mirror. In Maguire’s version of events, historical figure Lucrezia Borgia is cast in the role of the wicked queen with some gratuitous sexualization thrown in for good measure. I can’t help but think poor Lucrezia’s legacy has been getting the Cleopatra treatment for far too long. Stacy Schiff, will you rectify this for me please? (Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff was most enlightening! Anybody have a recommendation for a good Lucrezia Borgia biography?)

Talk to me, Bookworms! What have y’all been reading lately? Eye reading and ear reading both count here!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jul 06

Sisters of Heart and Snow by Margaret Dilloway

Asia, Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Women's Studies 11

Happy Monday, Bookworms!

I hope all of you in the US had a safe and enjoyable 4th of July weekend. I know I did. I read TWO BOOKS! I know. It’s been a while since I’ve had the luxury of pure binge reading with no real obligations and it was glorious. The first of the books I devoured was Sisters of Heart and Snow by Margaret Dilloway. Two of Dilloway’s earlier books, The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns (review) and How to Be an American Housewife (review) were winners for me, so I was stoked when the publisher emailed me with an offer to read and review her latest book. *I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This in no way influences the content of my review, though it does influence my ability to pass books along to friends and family. Yay for that.*

sisters of heart and snowDrew and Rachel Snow are sisters with a strained relationship. Rachel is a married mother of two in suburbia. A rather surprising outcome given that her wild teenage antics led to her being expelled from her childhood home. Drew is a bit of a drifter, a musician who follows her passion but never quite manages a semblance of adult stability. The girls haven’t been especially close thanks to the familial rift, but they’re thrown back into each other’s lives when their mother, a Japanese immigrant, begins to suffer from dementia. Though she requires constant care, while she was still lucid, Hikari awarded her elder daughter Rachel power of attorney, enraging her douchebag father, Killian.

During one of Rachel’s visits to the nursing home, Hikari asks Rachel to locate a book she kept in her sewing room. The book and its contents lead Rachel and Drew on a journey back into each other’s lives and shed light on their mother’s difficult past. The book tells the story of Tomoe Gozen, a badass lady samurai in twelfth century Japan, an unlikely tale that resonates across time.

You guys, I love me some Margaret Dilloway! Her inclusion of the badass lady samurai was just the icing on the cake. Drew and Rachel’s relationship was beautifully rendered. The crazy Snow family dynamic was masterfully portrayed even though I wanted to PUMMEL Killian. OMG. PUMMEL. Is it okay to want to pummel a very old man in a walker? I don’t care, he’s fictional and so are my punches. But I hate him. Luckily his awfulness didn’t rub off on his daughters. Long story short? You should probably read Sisters of Heart and Snow.

Talk to me Bookworms. How often do you want to punch fictional characters? Is this a thing that happens to other people?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will make a small commission.*

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