BOOK REVIEW: Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Title: Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Author: Gabrielle Zevin

Audiobook Length: 13 hours and 52 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, Contemporary

Read Start Date: October 6, 2022

Read Finish Date: October 11, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: In this exhilarating novel by the best-selling author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry two friends–often in love, but never lovers–come together as creative partners in the world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality.

On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.

Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.

My Review: I had no idea what to expect when I checked this audiobook out from the library, as to often happens to me with audiobooks. It was filed in the “popular global” category, and I thought, why not. I’m glad I did.

Sam and Sadie met as children at the hospital following an accident which left Sam disabled. Sadie’s sister had cancer and so was at the hospital often. Initially bonding over video games, their friendship ended when Sadie hurt Sam’s feelings deeply. They didn’t reconnect until college, when Sam saw Sadie coincidentally on a train platform. They created a video game, which launched their careers, and the events which flow from this success will shape their lives.

This book is largely character driven and despite having taken place over a time period of 30 years, nothing much happens from a plot perspective. The characters make a video game, then another, and another. Sadie falls in and out of a negative / abusive relationship. Sam and Sadie are friends, then they are not. They seem to always either be “on” or “off”, often fluctuating with whether they are making a game together or not. This book has no thrills (except maybe one scene toward the end), and is one of those books that is meant to be more beautiful than action packed.

In other words, with books like these, that focus on character rather than plot, the characters have to be well developed and the writing great. I had no complaints about the writing while listening and found the story to be engaging even though it could be at some points mundane.

The characters were at times not great people. I’ve Read This states: “The characters of Sam and Sadie aren’t all that likeable – both are selfish and self-absorbed the majority of the time.” I can’t say that I had feelings toward the characters one way or the other, but for some reason that didn’t seem to detract from the overall story for me. I think that the characters were meant to be flawed, and this made them more real somehow, more relatable.

I really love BOOKSHELF FANTASIES‘s take on this book: “Over the course of the years covered by Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, we learn about their backstories, their families, their traumas, and of course, their brilliance. There’s so much to absorb here about culture, wellness and disability, reality and virtual worlds, intelligence and academia, and more. Sadie, Sam, and Marx are unforgettable characters, beautifully described and developed. We know these people and what makes them tick; we understand their joys and their pain, and when bad things happen, it hurts deeply.

The writing is beautiful, often funny, often pensive, filled with oddball characters in a world that many of us (anyone not involved in gaming and coding) may find alien. We’re given entrance into this world through these characters’ experiences, and it’s fascinating.”

As of the writing of this review Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow has a 4.35 rating on Goodreads. Seems about in line with the 4 stars I am giving it. I would recommend this book for people who like character driven novels, especially those who are interested in video games and 90s nostalgia.

BOOK REVIEW: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

Title: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

Author: Kim Michele Richardson

Audiobook Length: 9 hours and 26 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction

Read Start Date: September 13, 2022

Read Finish Date: September 23, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: In 1936, tucked deep into the woods of Troublesome Creek, KY, lives blue-skinned 19-year-old Cussy Carter, the last living female of the rare Blue People ancestry.

The lonely young Appalachian woman joins the historical Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky and becomes a librarian, riding across slippery creek beds and up treacherous mountains on her faithful mule to deliver books and other reading material to the impoverished hill people of Eastern Kentucky.

Along her dangerous route, Cussy, known to the mountain folk as Bluet, confronts those suspicious of her damselfly-blue skin and the government’s new book program. She befriends hardscrabble and complex fellow Kentuckians, and is fiercely determined to bring comfort and joy, instill literacy, and give to those who have nothing, a bookly respite, a fleeting retreat to faraway lands.

My Review: Kindred Spirits summarizes it pretty well in her blog: “Cussie Mary is never more satisfied than when she is able to carry a new bit of reading material to a beloved patron, whether it be a young, aspiring forester or an elderly, near-blind seamstress. She loves her mission as “Book Woman”, working as a Pack Horse Librarian here in Kentucky, and does not wish for any other role in what others might perceive as a lonely life. Pa, though, has a different idea. He seems hell-bent on finding her a husband, and continues to light the courting candle, much to her dismay. What ensues opens up her very narrow world to unimaginable possibilities, both dangerous and hopeful.”

Cussy “Bluet” Carter has blue skin, which makes her an outcast in the rural community of Troublesome Creek, Kentucky. She is ostracized by most of the community (except her book patrons) for fear that her disease is catching. This makes it difficult for her father to find her a husband, and he eventually chooses an unsavory character, who dies shortly after their wedding. Suspecting foul play, his relative harasses Cussy Mary through out the book, which lends some of the only high tension to the story.

When I first started reading this book, I thought that this was an alternate reality where blue was a code for African American. It wasn’t until I researched the blue people of Kentucky, that I realized that there was an actual family of people with blue skin — well, in actuality it wasn’t blue skin but rather a genetic blood disorder which turned the blood a brown color which in turn gave the skin a blue hue. With the administration of medicine, the blood went back to its normal color, and so did the skin.

It took me 10 days to get through as many hours, which is not common for me. While interesting, I thought this book was really slow, and not much really happened. I rented this audiobook from the library as it was under the heading “popular global”. I had never heard of it before and didn’t check the synopsis before reading. This can be a hit or miss approach — The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek a bit more miss than hit, but still worth the read if you have the time.

In researching what other bloggers felt about this book, I came across a really great blog post from Leaving LanguishLand that I would suggest you check out. I included the link in the name of the blog.

BOOK REVIEW: The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

Title: The Lost Apothecary

Author: Sarah Penner

Book Length: 316 pages

Rating:  3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Contemporary, Crime

Read Start Date: September 30, 2022

Read Finish Date: October 18, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads:  A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them – setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course.

Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.
Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose – selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate – and not everyone will survive.

My Review: As of writing this post, this book has a 3.76 rating on Goodreads, which isn’t stellar for a mainstream, popular book. 37% gave the book 4 stars, while 27% gave the book 3 stars. I read this book about a year ago as an audiobook, and I remember liking it more than I did when I read it in paperback. I had given it 4 star last year, but after rereading the book, I’m switching to 3 stars. Maybe thinking it was better was due to my delirium of being a new mom and never sleeping. Anyway, I liked the story of Eliza and Nella more than Caroline. In fact, Caroline’s story really annoyed me to the point where I was rolling my eyes frequently.

I think the issue is that I just didn’t like Caroline as a character. I didn’t relate to her one bit. Caroline began the application process to attend graduate school at the University of Cambridge, as was her dream. Her then boyfriend, James, had been “adamantly against the idea” because he had plans to propose to her. The second he did “Cambridge could have fallen of the map, for all I cared–Cambridge and advanced degrees and every novel ever written by Charles Dickens. From the moment I wrapped my arms around James’ neck at the end of that pier and whispered yes, my identity as an aspiring historian rusted away, replaced with my identity as his soon-to-be-wife.” Then she takes a stable, secure job at her parent’s farm, while James steadily rises the corporate accounting ladder.

Because I guess America doesn’t offer masters degrees in history?

Regardless, even if the University she wanted to attend was in Australia, I’m still wondering, why the hell couldn’t she have gone and done her masters and still been a wife? Especially since kids were far off in the distance. “Though I’d wanted kids early in our marriage, James didn’t want to deal with the stress of long hours and a young family. And so just as he had climbed the corporate ladder every day for a decade, so too did I put that little pink pill on the tip of my tongue and think to myself, Someday.” I mean, 10 years is a long time to wait for “someday”. So Caroline puts her academic, career, AND family dreams on hold for a decade? Ummm, no thank you. There would have definitely been a Me shaped hole in the wall long before it got to the 10 year mark.

Also, from everything the book tells us of James, he doesn’t seem like he would be spending all that much time with the kids anyway…so not sure why they couldn’t have had kids early on in the marriage, since Caroline would have been the primary care giver (and since she wasn’t going back to school).

But okay, whatever, they waited 10 years. And now that they are trying for a baby, Caroline finds out he’s cheating, because, wait for it, he’s bored with his predictable, stable, and secure life. Eye roll. And then he tries to gaslight Caroline into believing that it was all HER fault! I can’t even with this guy. He’s such a piece of garbage (there are other supporting examples in the book of this) that I can’t believe Caroline didn’t notice the stench until she caught him cheating.

In all honesty, I’m not ever sure the Caroline story was really required because we learned everything that Caroline did from the Nella and Eliza storyline’s anyway.

Nella and Eliza on the other hand have stories that are much more interesting and include thrill, murder, intrigue, etc. Nella’s mother was an apothecary who dispensed remedies for women. When Nella’s mother died, Nella became romantically involved with a man. “In the weeks to follow, we fell terribly, wonderfully in love. My sea of grief grew shallower; I could breath again, and I could envision the future–a future with Frederick. I couldn’t have known that mere months after falling in love with him, I would dispense a fatal dose of rat poison to kill him. The first betrayal. The first victim. The beginning of a stained legacy.”

While I found Nella and Eliza’s story to be more interesting (I am also a big lover of the horror and true crime genres) Nella is, for all intents and purposes, a serial killer, and therefore while seemingly sympathetic, when you look deeper into her character, she is also a little dark. I mean, she’s literally been the reason why countless people are dead. And she doesn’t seem to care — or rather — she is glad that they are dead because they deserved it for being adulterous or lecherous or whatever else they did to affront the women in their lives. So in short, none of the characters are particularly relatable. I can understand wanting to harm someone who has betrayed you, but actually doing the harm is a whole different ball game.

I know that I’ve rambled a bit in this review, and I hope that I’ve made sense. Would I recommend this book? Yes…but there are other ones which I would pick up first.

BOOK REVIEW: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

55404546Title: Malibu Rising

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Audiobook Length: 11 hours and 5 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

Read Start Date: August 2, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 4, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of twenty-four hours, their lives will change forever.

Malibu: August, 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over—especially as the offspring of the legendary singer, Mick Riva.

The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud—because it is long past time to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.

Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.

And Kit has a couple secrets of her own—including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.

By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.

Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them… and what they will leave behind.

My Review: I first listened to the audiobook when my baby was 1 month old during night time feedings and so didn’t have enough of a recollection to write a proper review (not because the book was bad, but because I was so damn tired all the time). Since I have also read 2 of Reid’s other books (Daisy Jones & the Six (see my review here) and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (see my review here)), I wanted to give a review of this book as well. This was a book that I did not mind reading twice.

As many women do, I unfortunately gained weight during my pregnancy which I have, to date, not been able to take off. Additionally, I have always had the goal of running longer distances, so I have recently decided to start working toward a 5k, something which I haven’t ever done. I am normally not much of a runner (I usually walk instead). This book was a fantastic listen during running, and kept my mind occupied the entire time.

The book centers on the Riva family, who live in Malibu. The story takes place from the 1950s through the 1980s.

The father, Mick Riva, is a famous singer. Interestingly, Mick Riva is one of Evelyn Hugo’s husbands! There is also mention in this book that Celia St. James attended one of the famous Riva parties. I love how the author connected the two books — it was very subtle and unless you had read Evelyn Hugo recently, you might not have picked up on it at all.

Mick is an all around dog, we cheats on his wife June multiple times. They are divorced, remarried and divorced again, all the while June holds a candle to him, always hoping he will come back. She becomes an alcoholic and is not capable of carrying for her children. Mick never sends money, birthday cards — he never comes to see the children. Basically, he’s a jerk.

The story mainly follows the lives of the children Nina, Jay and Kit (June’s kids) and Hud (their half-brother, who has taken in by June when his biological mother basically dropped him off at the Riva’s doorstep). Each character is developed fantastically and I really like how all the stories are interwoven together. The book alternates between “present day” (in the 1980s) and the past.

I read some other blogs reviews about this book and Read and Review It makes a point that I had not considered: “I also really appreciated how big a theme family was in Malibu Rising. There was a really big emphasis on the importance of it and looking out for each other, which was a really lovely message. I also really liked how despite making some mistakes they all really cared about each other and would do anything for each other – I loved how tightly knit the siblings were, especially after everything that they’d been through.”

Out of all the Rivas introduced in the book, Nina is the main one. At the beginning of the book we find out that her famous, tennis star husband has left her after only a year of marriage. With a deadbeat father and alcoholic mother, Nina has been the de facto parent for her 3 younger siblings since she can remember. One day Nina is discovered while surfing and she becomes an overnight modeling sensation — this is not what she would have wanted for herself, but she did it in order to pay the bills and support her family. Nina has always put everyone before herself — it is her one and only flaw. Will she finally be able to put herself first and start living the life she always wanted?

Sarah Collins Bookworm describes Nina as the “ultimate people pleaser.” She goes on to say that: “As a reader, you very quickly a sense that Nina is simply going through the motions, she’s unsatisfied but won’t allow herself to consider what she actually wants to do with her life. That’s what Malibu Rising is about, Nina figuring out who she is and learning to let go of the past.”

I couldn’t agree more.

I really love how the culmination of the book took place at a raucous party. The family dirt was spilled and reconciled in the backdrop of the most looked forward to celebrity party of the year. Stuff was said, secrets revealed, an unexpected reunion took place — meanwhile all hell was breaking loose at the party, eventually ending in Malibu burning. Celebrities were high, drunk, and were basically just going crazy — breaking stuff, having public sex / threesomes, etc.

For all the reasons above, I would definitely recommend this book.

BOOK REVIEW: The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont

57693165._SY475_Title: The Christie Affair

Author: Nina de Gramont

Audiobook Length: 10 hours and 23 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Crime

Read Start Date: June 24, 2022

Read Finish Date: July 1, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads:Why would the world’s most famous mystery writer disappear for eleven days? What makes a woman desperate enough to destroy another woman’s marriage? How deeply can a person crave revenge?

In 1925, Miss Nan O’Dea infiltrated the wealthy, rarefied world of author Agatha Christie and her husband, Archie. In every way, she became a part of their life––first, both Christies. Then, just Archie. Soon, Nan became Archie’s mistress, luring him away from his devoted wife, desperate to marry him. Nan’s plot didn’t begin the day she met Archie and Agatha.

It began decades before, in Ireland, when Nan was a young girl. She and the man she loved were a star-crossed couple who were destined to be together––until the Great War, a pandemic, and shameful secrets tore them apart. Then acts of unspeakable cruelty kept them separated.

What drives someone to murder? What will someone do in the name of love? What kind of crime can someone never forgive? Nina de Gramont’s brilliant, unforgettable novel explores these questions and more.

My Review: Why does this book have only 3.75 stars on Goodreads (as of the date of this post)? This book made me feel so many things! Nina de Gramont flawlessly blends fact with fiction to the point where I don’t know what she made up! It could all be plausible from the time period.

The book is told in the first person by the character Nan O’Dea, who is having an affair with the husband of Agatha Christie. When Agatha finds out about the affair, she disappears, igniting a countrywide search. Nan takes a vacation to keep herself out of the spotlight. While staying at a hotel, there are two suspicious deaths.

The book switches between present day (during the period of Agatha’s disappearance) and the past, when Nan was a young girl in a star-crossed love affair with an Irish boy. I love the twist in the end where everything comes together. I was not expecting it at all!

SPOILER ALERT:

To really give a proper review, I have to reveal spoilers. In the storyline taking place in the past, Nan becomes pregnant and is sent to an Irish convent by her boyfriend’s parents (without his knowledge–he was deathly ill at the time). She is forced to give her baby up for adoption to an Englishman, and when she finds out that her baby is gone, she nearly kills the nun responsible. I had so many feelings about this scene. Firstly, I know it was common practice “back in the day” that unmarried women could not keep their babies because it was “shameful” to have babies out of wedlock, but WTF. That’s seriously f***ed up. I could not imagine having my baby taken away from me, and was disappointed that the vindictive nun, who gave away the baby out of spite (she was angry with Nan), was not murdered right then and there! Godly my a**!

Secondly, there was a priest at the convent who was raping a pregnant woman. What a total POS! These people are supposed to be Godly, but they are not better than sick and twisted criminals! It is because of people like this, the ones supposed to be representatives of God on Earth, that spoils religion and everything it stands for. Hypocrites the lot of them!

So anyway, rant over.

I haven’t really read any Agatha Christie books (I have been meaning too), but I suspect this book is written in the style of Christie. So if you are a fan of her books, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one as well.

I really liked this book and I would say that this should be on your must read lists for 2022.

BOOK REVIEW: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

34066798._SY475_Title: A Gentleman in Moscow

Author: Amor Towles

Audiobook Length: 17 hours and 52 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, 

Read Start Date: May 23, 2022

Read Finish Date: May 31, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility—a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel

With his breakout debut novel, Rules of Civility, Amor Towles established himself as a master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction, bringing late 1930s Manhattan to life with splendid atmosphere and a flawless command of style. Readers and critics were enchanted; as NPR commented, “Towles writes with grace and verve about the mores and manners of a society on the cusp of radical change.”

A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.

My Review: As an aristocrat and general thorn in the side of the Bolsheviks, Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to spend the rest of his days in a hotel. “Thus, it is the opinion of this committee that you should be returned to that hotel of which you are so fond. But make no mistake: should you ever set foot outside of the Metropol again, you will be shot. Next matter.”

This book was good, but I didn’t love it. It is essentially the story of a man who is sentenced to live in a hotel for the rest of his life — that’s it. It is written well, but there wasn’t really all that much happening. It seemed like an interesting premise, but at points it got a little boring, and I found myself having to listen to it at 1.25x the normal speed just to stay attentive. The voice of the narrator of the audiobook version drags a little, and sometimes I found myself drifting away to other thoughts.

That’s not to say that this isn’t a good book, or that if you like this type of book you won’t enjoy it. I just usually like a bit more plot motion / action in the books that I read.

BOOK REVIEW: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

32620332._SY475_Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Audiobook Length: 12 hours and 10 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance, LGBT, Contemporary

Read Start Date: April 11, 2022

Read Finish Date: April 15, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

My Review: This book was written back in 2017, but I guess has had a resurgence of readers due to being a “booktok” recommendation (?). It is also, as of the writing of this review, on the NY Times Bestseller’s list. Needless to say, I had high expectations. Although “booktok” got it right this time, I had a really hard time writing a review of this book.

What do you say about something, when you liked everything, for no express reason? From the very first moment, I was captivated by this story. It was interesting. There was mystery (why did Evelyn choose Monique to ghost write her biography?). There was love (all be it, not in all of Evelyn’s marriages). There was friendship, betrayal, a glimpse into the “rich and famous”…

At the center of it all, a formative woman with a secret — she was bisexual at a time when that was not permitted.

You loved Evelyn, but you also loved to hate her. She was caring, but also at times selfish. Monique was interesting in her own way, even though her story was typical i.e., woman has husband, woman has mixed feelings about divorcing said husband (did I do the right thing, etc etc), woman finds in the end that she deserves true love (which she didn’t have with her ex).

The characters were well developed and seemed true to real people i.e., I could imagine that this was a book about a real person, or at very least based upon a real person.

I don’t want to say too much else, otherwise I will give away essential plot points. This book is highly recommended.

BOOK REVIEW: Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

56783258._SY475_Title: Cloud Cuckoo Land

Author: Anthony Doerr

Book Length (Audiobook): 14 hours and 52 mins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Read Start Date: January 27, 2022

Read Finish Date: February 2, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Thirteen-year-old Anna, an orphan, lives inside the formidable walls of Constantinople in a house of women who make their living embroidering the robes of priests. Restless, insatiably curious, Anna learns to read, and in this ancient city, famous for its libraries, she finds a book, the story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky. This she reads to her ailing sister as the walls of the only place she has known are bombarded in the great siege of Constantinople. Outside the walls is Omeir, a village boy, miles from home, conscripted with his beloved oxen into the invading army. His path and Anna’s will cross.

Five hundred years later, in a library in Idaho, octogenarian Zeno, who learned Greek as a prisoner of war, rehearses five children in a play adaptation of Aethon’s story, preserved against all odds through centuries. Tucked among the library shelves is a bomb, planted by a troubled, idealistic teenager, Seymour. This is another siege. And in a not-so-distant future, on the interstellar ship Argos, Konstance is alone in a vault, copying on scraps of sacking the story of Aethon, told to her by her father. She has never set foot on our planet.

My Review: This book is told from the point of view of various characters, who’s stories eventually come together in the end. Each story is connected through the long lost Greek story of Aethon, a man who wants to turn into a bird and fly to a heaven-like place called Cloud Cuckoo Land (hence the name of the book).

I read a lot of reviews which stated that Doerr’s language / description is overdone, but I actually like it. Especially in audiobook format, the descriptive language really flows nicely, like it’s singing to you.

As far as the individual storylines go, my favorite was that of Konstance. We meet Konstance as she is alone in a vault (save for the AI robot tasked with keeping Konstance safe), piecing together the story of Aethon, which had been told to her by her father. At the beginning of the book we do not know why Konstance is all alone on a interstellar ship hurtling through space, but we come to find out piece by piece. The twist at the end was very unexpected and left me a little annoyed, and with more questions then answers. I wanted more, but the book was over. Sigh.

While I was the least enamored with Anna’s storyline (I didn’t find it all that interesting), hers is perhaps the most important, as it is the catalyst for the story itself. Without her act of stealing the book of Aethon’s story, it would not have been damaged, rearranged out of sequence, and barely readable 500 years later. The physical state of the book is almost as important as the story itself, as the message of the story has been misinterpreted for years, the truth to be rediscovered only by children in the present day.

I don’t want to give too many spoilers, so I will just say that the way that the storylines are interwoven was really clever, especially that of Seymour and Konstance. In general, I really loved the characters and there were definitely tear-jerking moments in the stories of Omeir and Seymour.

Although fiction, each storyline, even that of Konstance, was believable. Each story could have really happened (or could really happen in the future). Therefore, I’m not sure why the book is marked as “fantasy” on Goodreads. This seems incorrect to me, but okay.

I would definitely recommend this book, especially if you liked Doerr’s other book, All the Light We Cannot See. You can check out my review of that book here.

BOOK REVIEW: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Title: The Song of Achilles

Author: Madeline Miller

Book Length Audiobook: 11 hours and 15 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mythology, Romance, LGBT

Read Start Date: February 2, 2022

Read Finish Date: February 4, 2022

Link and Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13623848-the-song-of-achilles

Achilles, “the best of all the Greeks,” son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful, irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods’ wrath.

They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

My Review: We meet Achilles in his youth when a young exiled prince Patroclus is sent to live with Achilles’ father King Peleus. Despite being a book about Achilles, the Song of Achilles is actually told through the voice of Patroclus, Achilles companion and lover. Although the myth of Achilles centers around the Trojan war, I liked how somehow this book was more centered on the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles then the war. The war was more an ancillary topic, another setting if you will, where the relationship took place.

Other than the general knowledge about Achilles and the duly named “Achilles heel”, I knew little to nothing about his myth before reading this book. I was a little surprised therefore when Miller changed the way Achilles died (from an arrow through the back rather than heel), as I felt this altered the myth itself. I’m not sure why she choose to do it this way, but okay.

I listened to this book as an audiobook and finished it rather quickly. I really liked how Miller told the story, the language she used was descriptive in a way that made me imagine what she was saying. Her words created images in my mind as I listened.

I’ve read a lot of reviews where the reviewers complain about pacing: it’s too slow in places and too fast in others. Honestly, when I read the book, I didn’t even notice! Some reviewers also had issues with the character development, that the characters were flat and underdeveloped. I also did not notice, nor did I really think too much in depth about the development, or lack thereof, of the characters.

I read this book as entertainment and it was more than adequate at accomplishing this goal. I have no complaints whatsoever about this book. I often listened to this book while doing other things: laundry, cleaning, feeding the baby, exercising etc. Maybe I was just too distracted to notice the issues (pacing, character development etc)? I don’t know. What I do know is, despite the negative reviews from other, I have to say I really enjoyed the book and I would recommend it.

BOOK REVIEW: Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

reid_9781524798628_jkt_all_r1.inddTitle: Daisy Jones & The Six

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Book Length (Audiobook): 9 hours 3 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction

Read Start Date: November 6, 2019

Read Finish Date: November 14, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six: The band’s album Aurora came to define the rock ‘n’ roll era of the late seventies, and an entire generation of girls wanted to grow up to be Daisy. But no one knows the reason behind the group’s split on the night of their final concert at Chicago Stadium on July 12, 1979 . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock ‘n’ roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

My Review: I listened to this book during the long drive from Austria to the Netherlands. I borrowed this book from the library, not knowing what it was really about. At first I wasn’t sure whether it was fiction or based on a true story, and I actually had to google it when I stopped off at a rest stop. I have read in various places that it is very loosely based upon Fleetwood Mac. I don’t know anything about Fleetwood Mac, other than I like a few songs they wrote, so I cannot say whether that is true or not.

In any event, the book is about the rise and fall of The Six, one of the most famous bands in the 70’s. It is told by the members of the Six and Daisy Jones in the “present,” and each character reflects back on their golden age of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. The format of the book is in an interview style.

The audiobook version has 7 different actors reading for the characters. I found this to be more than a little distracting. Sometimes the author let the reader know who was speaking (whether by context or by announcing the name at the beginning), but sometimes it took several minutes before I could figure it out — some of the voices were really similar. Actually some of the cast members are pretty famous i.e., Benjamin Bratt and the lead singer of Korn. I didn’t realize this as I was listening, and to be honest I am not even sure which characters they played.

Despite the partial confusion, listening to the book felt like just listening to a conversation. It was easy going and the characters played off each other well.

The Reading Chick gave a great review of this book, and I agree that Daisy is a great character! In fact, she was probably one of my favorite characters of the book. She was so powerful and strong and had such a rockin’ voice and amazing talent, but at the same time she was just so raw and real and broken. Daisy was such a fantastic artist, but she was also a raging addict, which caused problems for her and the band.

Daisy’s hate / love relationship with Billy Dunne (the lead singer of The Six) was really well portrayed. Despite (or maybe because of) their competitiveness and outward dislike for each other, they really fed off each other artistically — the way the characters described the performances, you couldn’t help but to actually feel the sexual tension thinly masked with bitterness and anger, as though you were watching them onstage yourself.

I was definitely sucked into the story and was on the edge of my seat wondering whether Billy would give in to temptation (he was married with children).

On the other hand, if you are looking for a balanced review here, A Little Haze Book Blog also makes some fair points. I agree that the ending was super lame, and I honestly have to say I was really disappointed in it. I think I was making coffee at the time when the interviewer revealed who she was and I was like, are you serious right now?  I could have spit my coffee all over the counter.

That being said, with a few negative points aside, I enjoyed the book. If you’re in the market for a new book to read, I would give it a go.