5 Star Books · Book Reviews · fantasy · historical fiction · Science Fiction · thriller

I read my FIRST Stephen King Book! 11/22/63

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11/22/63

Published: November 8, 2011

Publisher: Scribner

Pages: 849

Genres: historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, thriller

Rating: 5 stars 

Recommend to fans of: JFK conspiracy theories, history buffs, alternate history novels, long well written books

Foodie Vibes: diner food but made the right way — from scratch, high fat and without preservatives

 

Synopsis: 

Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away…but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke… Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten…and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.

 

Review:

Like: 

  • The main character and narrator
  • Discussions of time travel repercussions – while not real, it’s fun to think about
  • The mix of historical fiction, suspense, and science fiction
  • A blast from the past: all the vintage brands, companies, music and fun anecdotes

Love: 

  • The audiobook version: I highly recommend listening to it! You will not be disappointed. 
  • The main topic: trying to go back in time and stop the JFK assassination 
  • The world building: the 1950s and 60s world the author creates feels extremely immersive

Dislike: 

  • All the talk about food poisoning, illnesses, etc. seems to be discussed more than most books

Wish that:

  • everything could be happily ever after by going back in time to change bad events 

Overall, I am so glad that I finally read a Stephen King book. I know, I know, how could I not have read one of his books before? I loved 11/22/63 and am looking forward to reading more of the author’s work in the future. 

 

Bookish Question:

How many Stephen King books have you read?

Which ones do you recommend?

 

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 · 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

4 Star Books · Adventure · feminism · historical fiction · LGBTQIA+ Books

The Pirate’s Booty by Alex Westmore

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Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the review for a fun Bookish Question. I’d love to hear your answers!

 

The Pirate’s Booty by Alex Westmore 

Published: November 22, 2016

Publisher: Broad Winged Books

Pages: 344

Genres: historical fiction, LGBTQIA+, historical romance, adventure

Rating: 4 stars

Recommend to fans of: pirate adventures, badass women, historical fiction with lesbians, feminism

Read with food: a nice juicy orange which is such a treat for a pirate 

 

Synopsis:

When Quinn Gallagher’s childhood friend is abducted from a dock in Ireland, she’ll do whatever it takes to come to the rescue—even if that means dressing as a man and joining the crew of one of the most notorious pirate captains the world has ever seen.

Quinn soon finds there is much to enjoy living as a man, in particular the company of other women. When she finds herself falling hard for Lady Fiona, a woman far above her own station, she is torn between revealing her true identity and continuing the façade of being a male pirate. Love is never easy, especially in the sixteenth century and especially under false pretenses.

Can Quinn live with one foot in two different worlds, or must she consign herself to either the lusty life of a pirate or the loveless life of a noble woman? Come sail the high seas in this exciting and erotic adventure with the fierce pirate Gallagher as your guide. You’re in for a wild ride and may even score some booty along the way.

 

Review:

I was contacted by the publicist of the author and offered a free ebook in exchange for a review. I read the synopsis and of course said yes! As always, an honest review.

I don’t usually read pirate adventure stories, but when I read that The Pirate’s Booty featured a female pirate queen I was very intrigued. Initially there was a bit of an adjustment regarding the language. It’s written in a 16th century pirate dialect, so I didn’t read it as quickly as modern American English. But as time went on, I became quite used to the writing style. It definitely adds to the atmosphere of the story.

The Pirate’s Booty isn’t what I think of when I imagine a typical pirate adventure novel, but it’s so much better. Female pirate queens, lesbians, women disguised as men, and of course the action packed adventure aboard the high seas!

I found myself captivated by the adventures and heartfelt stories. I loved the focus on woman power. Women proving that they are just as capable as men. The underlying themes of women’s freedom, literally and figuratively, provides interesting parallels to current day women’s issues.

Occasionally there were parts of the story that didn’t captivate me as much as others. However, there was so much going on, that it wasn’t long before another storyline came along to grab my focus.

The Pirate’s Booty is the first in a series of books featuring badass lesbian pirates. A wonderful unique story of heart, bravery and determination.

 

The Pirate’s Booty is the first in the Plundered Chronicles series.

Book 6: X Marks the Spot will be released soon, so keep a look out for it!

 

If you liked my review and are interested in learning more about the author and her books, check out:

Her website (subscribe to her newsletter for updates): http://alexwestmore.net

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alex.westmore/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009227907721

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4lrQpHa8ZX3qdkVDYEi0ng

 

 

Bookish Question of the Review:

Do you stick to a few favorite genres or read almost anything or somewhere in the middle? 

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

ARC Book Review | Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood

 

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Be sure to read until the end of the review for a fun, bonus question!

 

Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood

Published: August 7, 2018 

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 352

Genres: literary fiction, historical fiction

Rating: 5 stars

Recommend to fans of: fictionalized versions of real life, books about kidnappings, the 1950s

Read with food: a nice milkshake preferably from a diner

 

Synopsis:

Camden, NJ, 1948.

When 11 year-old Sally Horner steals a notebook from the local Woolworth’s, she has no way of knowing that 52 year-old Frank LaSalle, fresh out of prison, is watching her, preparing to make his move. Accosting her outside the store, Frank convinces Sally that he’s an FBI agent who can have her arrested in a minute—unless she does as he says.

This chilling novel traces the next two harrowing years as Frank mentally and physically assaults Sally while the two of them travel westward from Camden to San Jose, forever altering not only her life, but the lives of her family, friends, and those she meets along the way.

 

Review: 

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

Rust & Stardust was very loosely based on the real life kidnapping of Sally Horner in the late 1940s. Her story is also the inspiration for the book Lolita. The author took her story and imagined what might have happened in her day to day life while she was kidnapped. Sally was held for several years. I enjoyed the fictionalized version of what her life experiences might have been. Initially I didn’t realize the story was based on a real girl. I enjoyed it before and after learning this fact.

The storytelling is beautiful, haunting, and absolutely captivating. For a book about such a horrible topic, I couldn’t put it down. The author eludes to Sally’s terrible experiences, but doesn’t go into great detail which I appreciated. We learn more about Sally’s emotional state than anything else. Also each chapter alternates with different characters’ points of view, so we see the impact her disappearance has on her family as well.

The only part that frustrated me was the adults who were to scared or too unsure to help Sally. It was a different time and a different era but still frustrating none the less. Also, there are mentions of kidnapping and sexual assault. It wasn’t graphic by any means, and most of the story wasn’t about that. But I still wanted to mention it.

I was captivated by the writing right from the beginning all the way to the very last sentence. I highly recommend reading this amazing book.

Random Question of the Review:

How long does it take you to read a book?

2.5 Star Books · Book Reviews · historical fiction · LGBTQIA+ Books · Literary Fiction · Uncategorized

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

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The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

Published: June 19, 2018

Publisher: Viking

Pages: 421 

Genres: literary fiction, historical fiction, LGBTQ

Rating: 2.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: historical fiction about the AIDS epidemic in the 80s

Read with food: Chinese takeaway

 

Synopsis:

In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico’s funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s little sister.

Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter who disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago crisis, she finds herself finally grappling with the devastating ways AIDS affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. The two intertwining stories take us through the heartbreak of the eighties and the chaos of the modern world, as both Yale and Fiona struggle to find goodness in the midst of disaster.

Review:

I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. Thank you to the publisher and author for a copy. As always, an honest review.

I was disappointed by this read. The story takes place in the art world in 1980s Chicago and also present day Paris. The main focus is the lives of the gay community during the AIDS epidemic in the 80s, which the author does justice. Despite what could be a phenomenal book, it fell short for me.

I couldn’t connect with any of the characters, nor did the story draw me in. Therefore I went through the book appreciating and enjoying certain moments, but overall not invested in either story due to lack of connection. Also the two separate stories barely had anything to do with each other. They honestly could have been 2 separate books or even eliminated most of the present day Paris storyline.

The Great Believers had some redeeming benefits though. It told a story that isn’t always portrayed in the media and actually went into detail instead of glossing over unfavorable moments. A part of the history books that isn’t always done justice.

If you can connect with the characters, then you will probably enjoy it more than I did. But if not then take my thoughts into consideration. The tone of the book and writing doesn’t really change as you get farther along in the book.

 

I liked the overall concept, but it didn’t pan out for me.

 

Anyone have any other similar books that you really liked and would recommend to me?

 

 

Bookish Posts

Seriously Underrated Books – less than 500 Ratings

blur book stack books bookshelves
Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

Even more underrated book recommendations for you all!

 

This time it’s books that only have 100-500 ratings on Goodreads.

 

Why did I use Goodreads and these arbitrary numbers? See my original post here

 

Now onto my recommendations . . . 

 

The Heart Healers: The Misfits, Mavericks, and Rebels Who Created the Greatest Medical Breakthrough of Our Lives by James S. Forrester

Fascinating, amazing, and great for all you medical nerds out there. Essentially a book about cardiovascular surgery, it’s history, and innovations in medicine. Complex and smart, but well explained for people not well versed in medicine. 

 

The Intimate Bond: How Animals Shaped Human History by Brian M. Fagan

A new way of looking at how animals affect human history beyond their adorableness as household pets. A fascinating combination of world history, animal science and anthropology. 

 

The Stress Proof Brain: Master Your Emotional Response to Stress Using Mindfulness and Neuroplasticity by Melanie Greenberg

An incredibly fascinating and informative look at how and why our brain automatically reacts to certain situations with stress and anxiety. Filled with great checklists to help us take charge of our stress and anxieties.

 

A Warrior of the People: How Susan La Flesche Overcame Racial and Gender Inequality to Become America’s First Indian Doctor by Joe Starita

Exactly what the title describes and so much more! An intelligent, inspiring true life story of a hardworking woman determined to take care of her tribe, despite ethnic, racial, and gender prejudices. 

 

Pretend We Are Lovely by Noley Reid

 A family’s struggle to cope with the tragic death of their son and brother. Grief, secrets, and eating disorders consume the family as they each struggle in their own way.

 

Books by Candace Calvert including By Your Side, Step by Step,  Maybe It’s You, and Life Support

Each book tell the heartwarming tale of medical professionals, usually nurses, struggling in their personal and romantic lives. A perfect blend of an authentic behind the scenes medical setting and uplifting romance. 

 

It’s Not About Perfect: Competing for My Country by Shannon Miller

A memoir about a member of the Magnificent 7, the gold medal winning gymnastics team at the 1996 Summer Olympics. Stories from her childhood, years in the sport of gymnastics, and cancer diagnosis make up this intriguing, brave and inspiring book.

 

The True Tails of Baker and Taylor: the Library Cats Who Left Their Pawprints on a Small Town … and the World by Jan Louch

A purrrrfect book for cat and book lovers! An entire book all about adorable cats and their shenanigans in a library setting. What’s not to love!

 

This Is How I Find Her by Sara Polsky

The story of a teenage girl who cares for her mother suffering from bipolar disorder. Sophie hasn’t been able to live a “normal” teenage life ever. Then things change and with the help of others Sophie can start living her life for herself. A great book about children caring for their parents.

 

They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the Civil War by DeAnne Blanton

Did you know that women served in the military in the Civil War? Nope? Neither did I before reading this book. It’s fascinating to learn about the aspects of history that are rarely written about in the history books. 

 

Believe Me: My Battle with the Invisible Disability of Lyme Disease by Yolanda Hadid

How does this memoir not have more reviews? A heartbreaking, inspiring, educational look at what it’s like to live with a chronic illness, specially chronic lyme disease. I cannot stop talking about this amazing book!

 

I highly recommend that you give some of these underrated books a read. Click the titles to be redirected to Goodreads for a full summary. Enjoy!

 

I want to know . . . 

which books are you adding to your TBR list?

 

Also, look out for the last post in the series . . . next up: Underrated

Books with than 1,000 ratings

4.5 Star Books · Book Reviews · Gothic · mystery · psychological thriller · suspense

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

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The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

Published by Berkley on March 20, 2018

Pages: 336

Genres: mystery, thriller, gothic, suspense, historical fiction

Rating: 4.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: Criminal Minds, Cold Case, creepy satisfying books

Read with food: popcorn ~ the suspense is that good; it’s like watching a movie you can’t take your eyes off 

 

Synopsis: 

A suspense novel from the award-winning author of The Haunting of Maddy Clare…

Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming–until one of them mysteriously disappears. . . .

Vermont, 2014. As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past–and a voice that won’t be silenced. . . .

Review:

Murders, deaths that may or may not be accidental, haunted boarding schools, disturbed teenage girls. What more could a reader possibly want in a creepy, can’t put down book?

The Broken Girls alternates between 1950 and 2014. In 1950, 4 girls live in a haunted boarding school, Idlewild, for disturbed/delinquent teenage girls. One of them goes missing. Secrets are uncovered, and nothing is as simple as it seems on the surface. Then in 2014 a body is discovered on the grounds of the now derelict Idlewild.

In between, a young woman is murdered on the grounds. Fiona, the sister of the murdered woman, is now a journalist. Writing an article about the renovations on the grounds of Idlewild. She digs up more than a few secrets that the small town wishes to keep buried.

The Broken Girls is a perfect mix of an unsettling episode of Criminal Minds directed by Matthew Gray Gubler and a satisfying episode of Cold Case.

I definitely recommend you give this haunting book a read!

 

Book Reviews

Love and Ruin by Paula McLain

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Love and Ruin by Paula McLain 

Published by Ballantine Books on May 1, 2018

Pages: 352

Genres: fiction, historical fiction

Rating: 4 stars

 

Synopsis: 

The bestselling author of The Paris Wife returns to the subject of Ernest Hemingway in a novel about his passionate, stormy marriage to Martha Gellhorn—a fiercely independent, ambitious young woman who would become one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century

In 1937, twenty-eight-year-old Martha travels alone to Madrid to report on the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War and becomes drawn to the stories of ordinary people caught in devastating conflict. She also finds herself unexpectedly—and uncontrollably—falling in love with Hemingway, a man already on his way to becoming a legend. In the shadow of the impending Second World War, and set against the tumultuous backdrops of Madrid, Finland, China, Key West, and especially Cuba, where Martha and Ernest make their home, their relationship and professional careers ignite. But when Ernest publishes the biggest literary success of his career, For Whom the Bell Tolls, they are no longer equals, and Martha must make a choice: surrender to the confining demands of being a famous man’s wife or risk losing Ernest by forging a path as her own woman and writer. It is a dilemma that will force her to break his heart, and her own.

Review: 

I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. As always, an honest review.

Love and Ruin centers around Martha Gellhorn, a spunky, ambitious, intelligent and confident journalist. She wants to travel the world in order to write about the significant events, especially the wars encompassing the world. The character of Martha is the fictionalized version of Martha Gellhorn, a real journalist during the 1930s and 40s. She was also the mistress and eventual wife of Ernest Hemingway.

The story is beautifully told. I really appreciated that the tale of these real life people was incredibly readable and not at all dull. The writing style flows well and makes for an easy seamless read that I absolutely flew through. The book portrays what it feels like to travel to a war zone to share the experiences with others through journalism. I truly felt as if I were hunkered down in the hotel, hearing the gunfire in the not so far away distance. The reader also understands Martha’s desperation to share these experiences with the world, do them justice, and continue pursuing her journalism career.

Love and Ruin also tells the love story of Ernest and Martha, starting with their affair. Obviously these events were loosely based on real life, but I didn’t really enjoy reading about their affair. Affairs in general have the potential to hurt a lot of people, so it’s not exactly my favorite topic. Her relationship with Ernest Hemingway, a world renowned author, brings up a lot of things to think about. These topics include why do women get compared to men’s work, but not the other way around? Why are women expected to change after marriage to suit their husbands, not mutual compromise? Topics that were relevant back then, and still now. I really enjoyed the character of Martha. She makes the story work.

 

Recommend to fans of: historical fiction, Ernest Hemingway, complex love stories, books that make you think 

Read with food: Scones and French press black coffee with a pinch of sugar

Scones are simple yet when baked perfectly are wonderful, just like the writing in this novel.

The coffee matches the intensity of the story with just a hint of sweetness throughout.