Review: All We Ever Wanted - Emily Giffin

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“Who was the person you trusted enough to be your most transparent self with, in both good times and bad?”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Contemporary

Reading Challenge: 29 out of 50

Goodreads Synopsis —

Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton. Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.

Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenage girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.

At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.

My Thoughts —

So I actually ordered this book this summer whilst sitting at the Port Orleans resort, beignet in hand, trying to decide which three (yes, three) books to order from Indigo. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make because a) I’m already indecisive enough and b) the five or so books I wanted were all so interesting and I couldn’t bear to part with even one. But this one really stuck out to me. Like, something told me I needed this book immediately after reading the synopsis.

This book was wild from start to finish y’all. I really had a difficult time putting it down. It’s intense but not in a suspenseful, action-packed way. I think that most importantly, it really speaks to my generation. With social media being so prominent in our society, things can get really messy. Social media is great in that it links our worlds together and creates an opportunity for mass communication and social change. But it can also become a nightmare real quick, if it’s used for the wrong thing. I think this book really shows the dangerous side of social media and the novel presents itself in a way as a cautionary tale to parents and even teens. Are teens reading Emily Giffin? I did in high school but who knows!

I thought that the characters of Lyla and Finch were really well-represented as modern teens. Every time I read novels by authors long out of high school, I keep an eye out for how the teenagers are portrayed because I think that sometimes authors are out of touch with the young-ins (lol). In All We Ever Wanted, this wasn’t the case at all. I could definitely see Lyla and Finch as being real teenagers at my old high school. Having authentic characters really enhances the reading experience for me. I don’t know if it bothers anyone else as much as me. Is it a me problem? Who knows.

Honestly, just go read this book. You won’t regret it. I can’t say much about it without giving away the plot. But it was so gripping and it dealt with a ton of intense conflicts outside of just the social media issue that I think makes the novel that much more important of a read. Definitely pick this up at your bookstore immediately. Like go, right now!

Have you read All We Ever Wanted? If you have, what did you think?

Felicia x

Review: Dear Mrs. Bird - A.J. Pearce

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“If there was anything I wanted most in the world (other, of course, than for the war to end and Hitler to die a quite grisly death), it was to be a journalist.”

My Rating: ★★★

Genre(s): Historical Fiction (WWII), Fiction

Reading Challenge: 28 out of 50

Goodreads Synopsis —

A charming, irresistible debut novel set in London during World War II about an adventurous young woman who becomes a secret advice columnist—a warm, funny, and enormously moving story for fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Lilac Girls.

London 1940, bombs are falling. Emmy Lake is Doing Her Bit for the war effort, volunteering as a telephone operator with the Auxiliary Fire Services. When Emmy sees an advertisement for a job at the London Evening Chronicle, her dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent seem suddenly achievable. But the job turns out to be typist to the fierce and renowned advice columnist, Henrietta Bird. Emmy is disappointed, but gamely bucks up and buckles down.

Mrs Bird is very clear: Any letters containing Unpleasantness—must go straight in the bin. But when Emmy reads poignant letters from women who are lonely, may have Gone Too Far with the wrong men and found themselves in trouble, or who can’t bear to let their children be evacuated, she is unable to resist responding. As the German planes make their nightly raids, and London picks up the smoldering pieces each morning, Emmy secretly begins to write letters back to the women of all ages who have spilled out their troubles.

Prepare to fall head over heels with Emmy and her best friend, Bunty, who are spirited and gutsy, even in the face of events that bring a terrible blow. As the bombs continue to fall, the irrepressible Emmy keeps writing, and readers are transformed by AJ Pearce’s hilarious, heartwarming, and enormously moving tale of friendship, the kindness of strangers, and ordinary people in extraordinary times.

My Thoughts —

If you hadn’t already noticed, wartime fiction has sort of become my jam this year. It’s had a pretty substantial presence on my reading list. Recently, historical fiction has become one of my favourite genres to read, especially ones set in WWII or post-WWII era. I can’t get enough of it!

Quite simply, I found this book to be very cute. I don’t think that it was nearly the hardest-hitting of all the wartime novels I’ve read this year but I do think it was an important look at women’s efforts during the Second World War. I’ve been studying women’s history this term in university and the past little while has been all about interwar years and WWII so it’s definitely been interesting to see the parallels between my school stuff and my recreational reading.

I think that Emmy was a bit immature, considering that she was in her early twenties and involved in war efforts. I would think that war would make people, even young people, mature quicker due to the circumstances and focus more on the important issues. But Emmy’s primary concern was becoming a big fancy war correspondent and the rest was just ~whatevs~… I also thought her best friend was immature and sometimes annoying as well.

(Side note: I also have to mention the fact that some things were capitalized randomly throughout the novel to draw emphasis, and it absolutely bothered me to not end. If you remember my review on The Alice Network, you probably remember how this sort of thing in writing is my biggest pet peeve!)

Honestly I just saw this as more of a lighthearted adult fiction that just so happened to be set during the war, as opposed to a wartime novel. It was a cute, heartwarming story. I loved the focus on women breaking into the paid workforce, but it just didn’t have that certain je ne sais quoi you know?

Have you read Dear Mrs. Bird? Do you agree with me?

Felicia x

Review: How To Stop Time - Matt Haig

Title: How To Stop Time

Author: Matt Haig

Publisher: Viking

Release Date: February 6th 2018

Pages: 325

My Rating: ★★★ 1/2 (3.5/5)

Goodreads | Amazon


“The longer you live, the harder it becomes. To grab them. Each little moment as it arrives. To be living in something other than the past or the future. To be actually here.”

So, today’s read is a bit different in that it’s a bit sci-fi I suppose. I picked this up because although it had that fantasy element which is a bit unusual to my taste, it’s very saturated in history which, you probably know by now, I love.

How To Stop Time is the bizarre story of a man named Tom Hazard, who may appear outwardly as an average 41-year-old man but is really several hundred years old. He’s walked through history alongside people like William Shakespeare and has experienced the world as it’s advanced to become what it is today. But nobody knows. Except for the Albatross Society, a secret society of people like Tom who work together to keep their condition a secret - even if that means killing those who threaten their existence. Then, one day, Tom begins to fall in love - which is strictly prohibited.

I’m a bit iffy on this book. I didn’t hate it by any means. I just didn’t love it either. Overall, it was well-written and evidently well-researched. It had everything it needed to be a great book. But it just lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. I felt like the climactic event wasn’t all that climactic and I kept waiting for the shoe to drop, so to speak. The big moments were simply brushed over and resolved very quickly, and they didn’t have any repercussions at all. It was very simple and to the point which wasn’t exactly what I’d hoped for.

The concept, however, was very interesting. A man who’s lived through history, who’s witnessed major historic events first-hand, is now living in the 21st century. Sounds like a cool concept. It was fun to see him placed in history. Especially when historical figures were included, too. But constantly flipping between present day and some-hundred years ago was a bit confusing and muddled after a few chapters. After awhile, I started to wonder if there was a need for so many flashbacks or if it was just for the sake of reminding you that, hey look, this guy is really really old.

How To Stop Time was a fun read, but not really a meaty one. It didn’t take me very long to get through this one and because of that, I think it’d make a great beach read.

Have you read How To Stop Time? What did you think of it?

Goodreads Challenge: 21 out of 50

Felicia x

Review: The Immortalists - Chloe Benjamin

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“But I think magic holds the world together. It’s dark matter; it’s the glue of reality; the putty that fills the holes between everything we know to be true. And it takes magic to reveal how inadequate reality is.”

My Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Genre(s): Fiction, Fantasy, Contemporary

Reading Challenge: 17 out of 50

Goodreads Synopsis —

If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?

It's 1969 in New York City's Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in '80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds.

My Thoughts —

It was such a pain for me to get this book. It was completely sold out at my local Indigo (bookshop), which is thirty minutes from home. After trying the same shop another day to no avail, I ended up going an hour out to another Indigo, where I eventually found a copy of this book. Can’t beat the rural life, folks. I assume the fact that it wasn’t available is a testament to how much people want to read this book? Regardless, I was very eager to read this by the time I got my hands on it.

First and foremost, I have to say that I thought the concept of this book was extremely interesting. I loved how the author toyed around with the idea of fate and free will by showing these young adults growing up with these looming prophecies and deciding ultimately how it’d affect their lives. This novel absolutely poses a ton of questions about life, destiny, and the power of mind. I thought that the exploration of these topics was really well done.

As for the stories… If I’m honest, I much preferred the first two - Simon’s and Klara’s - over the latter two, which were Daniel’s and Varya’s. I thought that Simon’s story was the most interesting because a) it took readers into the LGBT community in San Francisco during the 1970s and 1980s and how Simon fit into it, and b) it was sort of a kicking-off point for the rest of the story, as the three other characters were largely affected by several events that occurred during Simon’s story.

The reason that I didn’t rate this higher was simply because, despite having a very intriguing concept, the actual story itself was sort of lacklustre in my opinion. I found that certain parts just didn’t grip my attention like others, and I found myself a bit bored at times. But don’t get me wrong! Overall, it was quite good. I just don’t really know if this is the sort of book for me. Although I’m sure many, many others would love it.

Have you read The Immortalists? Did you love it or find it so-so?

Felicia x

Review: The Alice Network - Kate Quinn

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Title: The Alice Network

Author: Kate Quinn

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

Release Date: June 6th 2017

Pages: 503

My Rating: ★★★★ (4/5)

Goodreads | Amazon


“What did it matter if something scared you, when it simply had to be done?”

The Alice Network is all about a young - and pregnant - American socialite who enlists the help of an ex-spy and a Scotsman with violent tendencies to assist her in finding her cousin, Rose, who went missing during World War II.

I’m truly a sucker for books set during the World Wars. The first half of the 20th century is one of my favourite eras of history to study and the historical-fiction set in that time period always has me hooked. But at first, I wasn’t sure that I’d like this one. I was finding it sort of difficult to get myself totally immersed in the story. Although I do love me a good dual-narrative, I was finding each chapter pretty short so it felt a bit like whiplash going from one woman’s story to the other’s. But I got into the flow of it just after the first thirty or so pages. Considering the length of this book, it ain’t no thang.

I have to say, out of the two stories, I preferred the 1915 one over the 1947. I think that Eve was a total bad-ass and she went through some crazy stuff in her lifetime. From the moment her character was introduced, I wrapped up in her story. I wanted to know all about what made her the cold woman that she was in her old age. Charlie, on the other hand, came into the story “fresh”, so-to-speak. Aside from being pregnant out of wedlock, she didn’t have much of a backstory to get me invested in her story. The way that I saw the novel was that it was Eve’s story and Charlie was there to help the plot move along.

Oh, and Kate Quinn knows her shit, you guys. She’s a graduate of Boston University with a Bachelor’s and a Master’s in Classical Voice, so you can bet that this book is full of details.

The one thing that really irked me about this book - and I do mean really irked me - was that there were a handful of words that were repeated throughout the novel that I found so cringe-y. Like, they were constantly used, over and over. For example, Eve calling Charlie a “Yank” or Charlie referring to her unborn child as the “Little Problem” or, worse, “L.P.” *shudder* I don’t know why, but it just drove me crazy. Don’t get me wrong! It didn’t make me dislike the book. It just made me cringe a bit whenever I came across one of the words.

I loved this book. And if you’re looking for an incredible, fast-paced novel about bad-ass women during the second World War, you’ll love it too. The women in this novel are seriously inspiring and the female friendships are so important. It’s also worth noting that the 1915 story is actually based on real-life events! The Alice Network was very real and it was led by Louise de Bettignies, aka Lili. Kate Quinn actually explains the inspiration for the novel at the end of the book so if you’re curious about that, make sure to look out for it!

The Alice Network is a remarkable story, about unsung heroes and I just adored it. Also, Reese Witherspoon included this in her book club a while back! How cool is that? If you’re curious to know what Reese had to say about this book, you can view her online book club site here.

(Somewhat Spoiler: I should mention that there is mention of a particularly gruesome abortion, as well as some rape and assault mentions. Keep that in mind before/while you read!).

Have you read The Alice Network? Did you like it as much as I did?!

Goodreads Challenge: 16 out of 50

Felicia x

Review: Leave Me - Gayle Forman

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“She felt almost tearfully grateful to be off the hook, and residually angry because she was always on the hook.”

My Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Genre(s): Fiction, Contemporary, Adult Fiction

Reading Challenge: 10 out of 50

Goodreads Synopsis —

For every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, for every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train to a place where no one needs constant attention--meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who's so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn't even realize she's had a heart attack.

Afterward, surprised to discover that her recuperation seems to be an imposition on those who rely on her, Maribeth does the unthinkable: She packs a bag and leaves. But, as is so often the case, once we get to where we're going, we see our lives from a different perspective. Far from the demands of family and career and with the help of liberating new friendships, Maribeth is finally able to own up to secrets she has been keeping from those she loves and from herself.

My Thoughts —

I’ve been a big fan of Gayle Forman for awhile now. Prior to Leave Me, however, I’d only ever read Gayle Forman’s Young Adults novel. This was my first of her adult fiction novels. Personally, after reading this one, I think I’m more drawn to her YA books. But I still find the wit and charm of her writing translates nicely to page, even in the Adult Fiction genre.

I guess my main grievance with this book really lies in the fact that the main conflict could have been resolved if Maribeth and her husband had just sat down and had a five minute conversation. Or, better yet, if they’d just gone to marriage counselling. If I can find an easy solution for a conflict right off the bat, then I find that I can’t really get invested in the novel.

At the start, I felt a lot of sympathy for Maribeth. Although times have changed, women - especially working women - still have a pretty rough gig. And Maribeth is the perfect example of being the primary caregiver, which is a role women are often socially expected to take on in a marriage. She has a job, two young kids, and not much help is given from her support system. It makes sense that she runs away.

She goes off on a journey of self-discovery (supposedly) where she’s finding her place in the world outside of the realm of motherhood. This journey is pretty much cut off at the head by the end of the book and just gets tossed aside as a subplot which is almost carelessly tied up (in my opinion) for the sake of ending the novel on a good note. I just felt there wasn’t a whole lot of character development in this novel, either on Maribeth’s part or her husband’s.

All in all, the novel was pretty entertaining. The ending left something to be desired but I don’t know if that should distract entirely from the rest of the plot - it should just be noted.

What did you think of Leave Me?

Felicia x