5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · historical fiction

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner | ARC Book Review

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The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

Published: March 19, 2019

Publisher: Berkley

Pages: 400 

Genres: historical fiction

Rating: 5 stars 

Recommend to fans of: WWII, historical fiction, reading about history from an alternate person’s point of view 

Foodie Vibes: a meager meal of stale bread, soup and coffee as food is scarce during the war 

 

Synopsis: 

Elise Sontag is a typical Iowa fourteen-year-old in 1943–aware of the war but distanced from its reach. Then her father, a legal U.S. resident for nearly two decades, is suddenly arrested on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. The family is sent to an internment camp in Texas, where, behind the armed guards and barbed wire, Elise feels stripped of everything beloved and familiar, including her own identity.

The only thing that makes the camp bearable is meeting fellow internee Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American teen from Los Angeles, whose friendship empowers Elise to believe the life she knew before the war will again be hers. Together in the desert wilderness, Elise and Mariko hold tight the dream of being young American women with a future beyond the fences.

 

Review:

I won this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. Thank you to Goodreads, Berkley, and Susan Meissner for an ARC copy. As always, an honest review from me. 

Like:

  • Alternates between present day and WWII featuring the same characters helps to enhance the story
  • The shared friendship between Elise and Mariko – seamlessly ties the whole story together, even when they’re living on different continents
  • The parents caring for their children during very difficult times

Love:

  • The realism and beauty of the writing
  • We get a more personal complete perspective of the war from the view of a teenager
  • The main characters: Elise, her family, Mariko, and the Dove family
  • Even though it’s fiction I learned more about WWII, especially the experiences of average citizens in the U.S. and Germany 
  • Completely transports me to a different time and place

Dislike: 

  • The sadness, violence and mistreatment of people, even though its realistic to the events in history

Wish that:

  • The character of Max was mentioned more and also more likable 

 

Overall, a wonderful historical fiction novel that tells the tale of two American teenagers who met due to fear an assumptions from the government and changed each others’ lives forever. Definitely, definitely recommend!

 

Bookish Question:

What’s your favorite time period/country to read about in historical fiction novels?

Add to your Goodreads TBR

 

Come say hi!

Twitter: @BooksAndLife1

Instagram: @BooksLifeAndEverythingNice

Goodreads: Amanda (Books, Life and Everything Nice)

Facebook: @BooksLifeAndEverythingNice

5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Bookish Posts · contemporary fiction · contemporary romance · mental health · Women's Fiction

The Best Book! | ARC Review | The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

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The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

Published: April 2, 2019

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 304

Genres: contemporary romance, contemporary fiction, women’s fiction, mental health

Rating: 5 stars

Recommend to fans of: books with all the feels, good representation of people on the autism spectrum

Foodie Vibes: cherry wine coolers 

 

Synopsis:

Annika (rhymes with Monica) Rose is an English major at the University of Illinois. Anxious in social situations where she finds most people’s behavior confusing, she’d rather be surrounded by the order and discipline of books or the quiet solitude of playing chess.

Jonathan Hoffman joined the chess club and lost his first game–and his heart–to the shy and awkward, yet brilliant and beautiful Annika. He admires her ability to be true to herself, quirks and all, and accepts the challenges involved in pursuing a relationship with her. Jonathan and Annika bring out the best in each other, finding the confidence and courage within themselves to plan a future together. What follows is a tumultuous yet tender love affair that withstands everything except the unforeseen tragedy that forces them apart, shattering their connection and leaving them to navigate their lives alone.

Now, a decade later, fate reunites Annika and Jonathan in Chicago. She’s living the life she wanted as a librarian. He’s a Wall Street whiz, recovering from a divorce and seeking a fresh start. The attraction and strong feelings they once shared are instantly rekindled, but until they confront the fears and anxieties that drove them apart, their second chance will end before it truly begins.

 

Review:

I won this book for free through a Goodreads Giveaway. Thank you to Goodreads, Tracey Garvis Graves and St. Martin’s Press for an ARC copy. As always, an honest review from me. 

The book is absolutely amazing! There are not enough words to accurately describe how wonderful the read was, so I’m not even going to try. I will just say this: I’ve never done this before — not given a full in depth review of a book. That’s how special I found The Girl He Used to Know. But take my word for it, read this book! 

 

Do you ever feel like you don’t have the words to explain how amazing a book, movie, feeling is?

4 Star Books · Book Reviews · contemporary fiction · contemporary romance · romance · suspense

The Light to My Darkness by Ivy Smoak

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The Light to My Darkness by Ivy Smoak

Published: September 19, 2017

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Pages: 358

Genres: romance, contemporary romance, contemporary fiction, suspense 

Rating: 4 stars 

Recommend to fans of: romance novels with a mix of suspense, realistic fiction, adorable family life, couples that are #relationshipgoals 

Foodie Vibes: bananas and ice cream ~ for all those pregnancy cravings 

 

Synopsis: 

My relationship with my husband has been splashed all over the tabloids ever since we first started dating. What should I have expected when I took New York City’s most eligible bachelor off the market?

But no matter how long I’m with my husband, I can’t shake the feeling that a stroke of luck brought me here. That I don’t deserve the life around me. And I swear, if one more paparazzi takes a picture of me I’m going to freaking lose my mind.

I needed to prove to myself that I’m not worthless. So I wrote a novel under a pen name, but I’ve been rejected by so many literary agents I’ve lost count. And I’m so consumed with this idea that I need more out of life that I never had a chance to see the real story unfolding around me. The story that would threaten the life I took for granted.

 

Review:

I won this ebook for free through Goodreads Giveaways. Thank you to Goodreads and Ivy Smoak for the copy. As always, an honest review from me.

The Light to My Darkness is wonderful, heartfelt, passionate, and has just enough suspense. Penny is pregnant with her second child. She craves bananas and ice cream. She looks after her adorable 3 year old, Scarlett. And her husband absolutely worships her. The only difference this time around is that she has a moderate to severe heart murmur, and the pregnancy is putting added stress on her heart. 

I really liked that this romance novel features a pregnant and married woman as the main character. Not many authors do this. Their relationship is very steamy. The stress that her health condition puts on their day to day lives is also explored. The representation is great. Scarlett is also such a smart adorable kid. The suspense of Penny’s health condition and later darker elements kept me turning the pages quickly. 

However, there are a few aspects that I’m not a huge fan of. One is the manner that the couple met. Some people don’t have a problem with it, but I did. Also the last 20% of the book had a lot of information thrown in quickly. I wish that it was further explored. And the ending … let’s just say you’ll either love it or hate it.

Overall, I really enjoyed this contemporary romance featuring a strong smart woman who is pregnant. The suspense made it even better. I definitely recommend giving The Light to My Darkness a read. 

 

Add to your Goodreads TBR

 

If you’ve been pregnant before, what’s the weirdest food craving that you experienced?

 

Come say hi!

Twitter: @BooksAndLife1

Instagram: @BooksLifeAndEverythingNice

Goodreads: Amanda (Books, Life and Everything Nice)

Facebook: @BooksLifeAndEverythingNice

4 Star Books · Book Reviews · Chick Lit · contemporary fiction · contemporary romance · fiction · POC · romance · Women's Fiction

Busted in Bollywood by Nicola Marsh

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Busted in Bollywood by Nicola Marsh

Published: July 3, 2012

Publisher: Entangled Publishing

Pages: 302

Genres: chick lit, romance, contemporary romance, fiction, POC

Rating: 4 stars

Recommend to fans of: fun books that make you happy, Bollywood movies, great friends, cross continental romance

Foodie Vibes: authentic Indian treats made and enjoyed with loved ones

 

Synopsis:

Shari Jones needs to get a life. Preferably someone else’s.
Single, homeless and jobless, Indo-American Shari agrees to her best friend’s whacky scheme: travel to Mumbai, pose as Amrita, and ditch the fiancé her traditional Indian parents have chosen. Simple. Until she’s mistaken for a famous Bollywood actress, stalked by a Lone Ranger wannabe, courted by an English lord, and busted by the blackmailing fiancé.
Life is less complicated in New York.
Or so she thinks, until the entourage of crazies follows her to the Big Apple and that’s when the fun really begins. Shari deals with a blossoming romance, an addiction to Indian food and her first movie role, while secretly craving another trip to the mystical land responsible for sparking her new lease on life. Returning to her Indian birthplace, she has an epiphany. Maybe the happily-ever-after of her dreams isn’t so far away?

 

Review:

I won this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. Thank you to Goodreads, Entangled Publishing, and Nicola Marsh for an ebook copy. As always, an honest review from me. 

One word to describe this book: FUN! It’s a feel good book filled with great Indian food, romance-love and arranged, wonderful friendships, fun cultural adventures, and just enough family drama to keep things interesting. When I think about Busted in Bollywood, I am filled with images of color, Indian delicacies, and pure joy. The book version of a Bollywood movie, that I can’t get enough of.

The story is set in New York City and India, both bustling vibrant cities, perfect for this whirlwind of a story. I loved the underlying focus on true relationships – family, friendships, and romantic. It’s not just a silly book, but is filled with great depth. 

Occasionally I wasn’t sure about the main character’s relationship. And I wanted to hear more about her friend’s relationship. 

But overall a fun joyful book that I highly recommend, to put you in a good mood.

 

Have you watched a Bollywood movie before? What did you think?

4 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · Domestic Fiction · suspense · thriller

ARC Review | The Au Pair

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The Au Pair 

Published: January 8, 2019

Publisher: Berkley Books

Pages: 368

Genres: thriller, suspense, domestic fiction

Rating: 4 stars

Recommend to fans of: the Roanoke Girls, unsettling families, books about houses that take on a story of their own, twin mysteries 

Foodie Vibes: apricots fresh off the trees

 

Synopsis:

Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother Danny were born in the middle of summer at their family’s estate on the Norfolk coast. Within hours of their birth, their mother threw herself from the cliffs, the au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of dark cloaks, changelings, and the aloof couple who drew a young nanny into their inner circle.

Now an adult, Seraphine mourns the recent death of her father. While going through his belongings, she uncovers a family photograph that raises dangerous questions. It was taken on the day the twins were born, and in the photo, their mother, surrounded by her husband and her young son, is beautifully dressed, smiling serenely, and holding just one baby.

Who is the child and what really happened that day?

One person knows the truth, if only Seraphine can find her.

 

Review:

I won this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. Thank you to Goodreads, Berkley Books, and Emma Rous for an ARC copy. As always, an honest review from me.

The Au Pair is an almost other worldly tale of a family who lives at Summerbourne, the massive infamous property. One summer they hire Laura to be the au pair to Edwin, their young son. We soon learn that there is something odd about the family. Twins are common at Summerbourne, but twins never last. Myths, creepy stories, and tall tales are spread by the towns people about the happenings at the house. It makes for a creepy, suspense filled and almost cultish read. I love it! The property and strong family matriarch, Vera, set up the entire story. There is a certain undeniable, almost indescribable feel to the book. It gets under your skin and doesn’t let up, forcing your to keep turning the pages.

The book starts out in 2017 right after the adult childrens’ father has died. After some strange happenings and unanswered questions Seraphine, the daughter, decides she will get her answers about her mysterious family once and for all. The chapters alternate between present day and 1993, right before Seraphine and her twin brother are born. It’s an effective way to tell the story. 

However between the changes in time and confusion about identity, I had a bit of trouble distinguishing between a few non central characters. Eventually I figured it out, but it was frustrating. Also, I wish Laura was a more well defined character. She’s meant to be a more submissive personality, compared to all the Summerbournes. However, Laura plays such a vital role in the story that she needed more depth and influence. 

All in all, the intensity, suspense, and family secrets make The Au Pair an undeniably good read.

 

If you could have a home anywhere in the world, where would it be located?

3 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · feminism · memoir

ARC Book Review | Freedom is an Inside Job by Zainab Salbi

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Freedom is an Inside Job: Owning Our Darkness and Our Light to Heal Ourselves and the World by Zainab Salbi

Published: October 2, 2018

Publisher: Sounds True

Pages: 184

Genres: memoir

Rating: 3 stars 

Recommend to fans of: enlightening personal exploration, learning to forgive people who have hurt you, stories of women who grew up in Iraq

Foodie Vibes: homemade authentic Iraqi meals shared with family

 

Synopsis:

By all appearances, Zainab Salbi has had an impressive life. Growing up as the daughter of Saddam Hussein’s personal pilot, she eventually became a celebrated humanitarian and activist. Yet, as she was helping thousands of women in war-torn countries, Salbi’s personal life was coming to a crisis. In Freedom Is an Inside Job, Salbi explores her own riveting journey to wholeness—and how embarking on such a journey enables each of us to create the world we want to live in.

After years of working as a successful CEO and change-maker, Salbi realized that if she wanted to confront and heal the shadows of the world, she needed to face her own shadows first—and this could only be done by looking within. Through personal anecdotes, real-life stories, parables, and insightful guidance, Salbi takes us through a process of self-discovery. We learn to uncover our hidden motives and desires so we can live in alignment with our authentic values. “As long as we are conflicted within, we will continue to live in conflict without,” writes Salbi. “If we want to change the world, we must begin with ourselves.”

 

Review:

I won this book for free through a Goodreads Giveaway. Thank you to Goodreads, Sounds True Publishing, and Zainab Salbi for a free ebook copy. As always, an honest review from me.

Zainab Salbi’s story takes us from her childhood in Iraq to an arranged marriage in America to founding an organization to help women all over the world. She’s very accomplished. The book is her life story along with all the lessons she’s learned along the way. 

Her story is unique, yet many women can relate to her emotions and lessons learned. I liked that we get a peek into daily life of women living in Iraq at that time, not just what the U.S. mainstream media was delivering – a very limited, one sided view of the world. The life lessons of forgiveness, shame and fear, taking inventory of one’s inner self, and rediscovering your feelings is a main focus. There’s a lot to learn from her experiences and revelations.

However as great as her story is, it isn’t captivate me personally. It’s not boring by any means, but jumps around a bit. Also some parts feel like a therapy session for her; a book of remorse and past mistakes. It’s important to acknowledge but it dominated a lot of the chapters.

Overall, the story of the author’s life combined with the lessons she learned pull together to educate, inspire and enlighten others. The cons of the book made it not quite as enjoyable as I had hoped.

 

 

4.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · Chronic Illness/Disabilities · Essays · LGBTQIA+ Books · Medical · mental health · non fiction · psychology

ARC Book Review | Firsts: Coming of Age Stories by People with Disabilities by Belo Miguel Cipriani

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Firsts: Coming of Age Stories by People With Disabilities by Belo Miguel Ciprani

Published: October 1, 2018

Publisher: Oleb Books

Pages: 228 

Genres: non fiction, essays, LGBTQIA+, chronic illness, mental health, disabilities 

Rating: 4.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: authentic stories told by real people, books about living with disability, representation in literature

Foodie Vibes: whatever you like, because each person is different

 

Synopsis:

Take a step back in time with some of the best writers with disabilities as they recount their first adventure, their first heartbreak, and the first time the unexpected treaded into their life. From body transformations to societal setbacks, to love affairs and family trauma, Firsts collects the most thought-provoking and exciting stories of our time by people with disabilities. Contributors include Nigel David Kelly, Kimberly Gerry-Tucker, Caitlin Hernandez, Andrew Gurza, and David-Elijah Nahmod.

 

Review: 

I won this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. Thank you to Goodreads, Oleb Books and Belo Miguel Ciprani for an ARC ebook copy. As always, an honest review from me.

Firsts is a collection of essays written by different people with disabilities, so that people with disabilities could accurately see themselves represented in the media. I don’t have a disability myself, so my thoughts on the book come from an able bodies point of view.

Each essay has a different author and therefore a different voice. Certain essays captivated me more than others, but I enjoyed and learned from each person’s experiences. Overall the writing is wonderful. I love that the book is a compilation of authentic life experiences written by and for people with disabilities. After reading certain essays, I wanted to seek out additional written work by the authors. 

3.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · Literary Fiction

ARC Review | When All Is Said by Anne Griffin

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When All Is Said by Anne Griffin

Published: March 5, 2019

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Pages: 356

Genres: literary fiction

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: heartbreakingly beautiful novels, stories that honor the older generations

Foodie Vibes: liquor that reminds you of certain loved ones

 

Synopsis:

A tale of a single night. The story of a lifetime.

If you had to pick five people to sum up your life, who would they be? If you were to raise a glass to each of them, what would you say? And what would you learn about yourself, when all is said and done?

This is the story of Maurice Hannigan, who, over the course of a Saturday night in June, orders five different drinks at the Rainford House Hotel. With each he toasts a person vital to him: his doomed older brother, his troubled sister-in-law, his daughter of fifteen minutes, his son far off in America, and his late, lamented wife. And through these people, the ones who left him behind, he tells the story of his own life, with all its regrets and feuds, loves and triumphs.

Beautifully written, powerfully felt, When All Is Said promises to be the next great Irish novel.

 

Review:

I won this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. Thank you to Goodreads, Thomas Dunne Books and Anne Griffin for an ARC copy. As always, an honest review from me. 

My rating is actually 3.5/5 stars but since there aren’t half stars I always round up. 

When All Is Said is a heartbreakingly beautiful and poignant piece of literary fiction. The main character, ____________, is near the end of his life. When we find him, he’s in a bar ordering very specific drinks one evening. One drink for each important person that he would like to toast.

Each chapter is about one important person over his lifetime. The chapters about his late wife and sister in law are especially touching. The writing is elegant without being overly pretentious or stuffy. I think this book is a wonderful way to tell the stories of a person’s life.

However it made for some very long chapters. Over 50 pages for most to be exact. I hate stopping in the middle of chapter, which I was forced to do. It’s not realistic to finish up the few pages left in the chapter when you have 35 pages left. Also, while some of the people’s stories were captivating, others didn’t hold my attention at all. Very hit or miss. 

All in all, When All Is Said is beautiful, sad, and relatable. A wonderful way to honor the older adults in society. Often their feelings and wishes are overlooked with others telling them what they must do. The author tells a story of a man honoring his own life and making decisions for himself. The book will stay with me for a long time. 

 

Have you read this book yet? What did you think?

4.5 Star Books · Book Reviews · mental health · non fiction · Self Help

Gratitude for Happiness: How to Exercise Your Gratitude Muscles by Ged Cusack

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Gratitude for Happiness: How to Exercise Your Gratitude Muscles by Ged Cusack

Published: July 14, 2017

Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform 

Pages: 185

Genres: non fiction, self help, mental health

Rating: 4.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: practical self help books, incorporating gratitude into your daily life

Foodie Vibes: a simple, easy to prepare, delicious meal of your choosing 

 

Synopsis:

If you’re ready to make Gratitude your habit and build your happiness, now is the time that you must read this book.Do you know that most of us focus more on what we haven’t got, than what we have got? 
Just by switching your attention and focusing on what you have got, you can attract more of the same.

Your gratitude muscles are like any other muscles, if they haven’t been used for a while they may need some warming up.

In this book you will find:

A simple process to help you flex your gratitude muscles and build a gratitude habit to enhance your happiness. Individual exercises at the end of each of the sixty sections, to help you build your own gratitude statements.   Four hundred and ninety sample gratitude statements (as guides) covering a wide spectrum of life, including:  Finance Relationships  Basic shelter

And much more: Three optional timeframes to develop your habit at your own pace. From steady progress or a set timetable to binge reading, you can decide.
Just reading a book isn’t going to provide you the benefits that you seek, so:  Read this book Work through the exercises Express your emotions for even the smallest gratitude’s  Be amazed by your results.

 

Review:

I won this book for free from Goodreads Giveaways. Thank you to Goodreads, the author and publisher for the ebook copy for review. As always, an honest review from me.

My rating is actually 4.5 stars, but since there aren’t half stars I round up.

Gratitude for Happiness is a combination self help book and workbook. The format goes like this: chapters arranges by topic, sub topics that delve deeper into each category of gratitudes, explanations of each gratitude, examples from the author’s life, and prompts for the reader to determine topic specific gratitudes in their own life.

The book is really user friendly. I have the ebook version and can easily write my gratitudes on a piece of paper. It doesn’t hamper my ability to complete the exercises by only having an ebook version. If you prefer to keep your gratitude work right next to the explanations themselves, consider purchasing the printed version so you can write directly in your book. I also like that the book helps guide each person to create a mega list of many gratitudes and then narrow them down to what’s most important to them. Very personal and unique! I read the whole book once through and am now going back to complete one gratitude exercise per day as suggested by the author. I really loved the examples in which the author reframes a negative thought into a positive one. It’s actually a technique taught in therapy and can be quite helpful to many.

Occasionally some of the author’s examples seemed a bit redundant and specific to him. If someone was struggling to figure out their own gratitudes in a particular section, they may or may not be helped by the author’s examples.

Overall, an extremely helpful book to practice gratitude in a purposeful way. I’ve already started recommending this book to family and friends, and want to purchase a physical copy for some.

 

How do you practice gratitude in your life? Journaling, gratitude lists, sharing on social media, prayer, others. Let’s encourage each other to find gratitude in our lives!

2.5 Star Books · Book Reviews · Philosophy · Self Help

Purpose-Volume 1: Meditation on Love, Relationship, Fear, Death, Intuition, and Power – Uncovering Our Resistance to Life by Noura

 

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Purpose-Volume 1: Meditation on Love, Relationship, Fear, Death, Intuition, and Power – Uncovering Our Resistance to Life by Noura

Published: February 28, 2018

Publisher: ?

Pages: 276

Genres: self help, philosophy

Rating: 2.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: hard but helpful realities, examining your thoughts to make changes

Foodie Vibes: pure spring water

 

Synopsis:

Is it possible to have clarity about ourselves that enables us to understand ourselves totally so we never have to rely on any belief? If we can look and see clearly for ourselves, are beliefs necessary?

Some of the topics this book explores include but aren’t limited to the following:

” Using meditation as a tool for self-inquiry and observation
” Mastering the mind through the mastery of love, which doesn’t oppose
” Empowering ourselves through mastery of the mind
” Love as our natural state, which can be hidden or denied but never destroyed
” Darkness as the false in us to be undone through total understanding of ourselves
” Unity of purpose as the foundation of our thinking versus the belief in separation as the foundation of our thinking
” The strength of unity in relation to mental strength
” How fear and violence arise in our thinking
” Uncovering our resistance to life and freeing ourselves from that resistance
” Relationships, death, intuition, intelligence, greed, joy, forgiveness, and integrity
” Respecting the power of belief
” Boundaries versus defenses
” Duality versus nonduality
” The mastery of love versus the mastery of darkness
” Purpose

 

Review:

I won this book for free in a Goodreads Giveaway. Thanks to Goodreads, Noura and the publisher for an ebook copy for review. As always, an honest review.

Purpose-Volume 1 reads like a long continuous stream of someone’s thoughts that is later grouped into chapters. The book starts with telling the reader to keep an open mind and not make any judgments. I tried to do that, but couldn’t. Some of it was because I still have aspects of myself I need to work on. But other parts of the book I definitely disagree with, no matter how much of an open mind I keep.

Most of the book I agree with in general, but when it comes to putting the concepts into practice they don’t hold true. For example, being kind to everyone and giving up your defenses. It’s good advice to not be so guarded all the time. However I believe that giving up all your defenses is stupid. Be cautiously kind and optimistic but also keep yourself safe. Then again maybe I’m not as evolved and enlightened as the author. Also the writing style made it hard to hold my attention. In parts I had to force myself to keep reading.

I did learn things about myself and highlighted lots of relevant passages. As the author says, use the book as a mirror to the inner workings of your mind.

Overall the book makes some good points about life, but the writing style makes it harder to read and less enjoyable. In theory it works, but in practicality not as much.

 

What do you look for in a self help book?