The Existence of Amy by: Lana Grace Riva

Description from Goodreads

Amy has a normal life. That is, if you were to go by a definition of ‘no immediate obvious indicators of peculiarity’, and you didn’t know her very well. She has good friends, a good job, a nice enough home. This normality, however, is precariously plastered on top of a different life. A life that is Amy’s real life. The only one her brain will let her lead.

My Review

This is an important read if you want to get a glimpse inside the mind of someone that suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Depression. Along with obsessive compulsive thoughts and actions, anxiety is a main component of OCD. As someone who suffers from anxiety, I was very involved in the reading of this book. There were a few moments that I had to put the book down and breathe and remind myself that I was ok and this wasn’t real. The feelings were very accurate.

Was the writing perfect? No, but it didn’t matter. The point was so vivid and on point. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to see inside a person that suffers from these types of disorders.

I gave this book 5 crowns.

Montauk by: Nicola Harrison

Publication date: June 4, 2019

Description from the publishers through Netgalley

An epic and cinematic novel by debut author Nicola Harrison, Montauk captures the glamour and extravagance of a summer by the sea with the story of a woman torn between the life she chose and the life she desires.

Montauk, Long Island, 1938.

For three months, this humble fishing village will serve as the playground for New York City’s wealthy elite. Beatrice Bordeaux was looking forward to a summer of reigniting the passion between her and her husband, Harry. Instead, tasked with furthering his investment interest in Montauk as a resort destination, she learns she’ll be spending twelve weeks sequestered with the high society wives at The Montauk Manor—a two-hundred room seaside hotel—while Harry pursues other interests in the city.

College educated, but raised a modest country girl in Pennsylvania, Bea has never felt fully comfortable among these privileged women, whose days are devoted not to their children but to leisure activities and charities that seemingly benefit no one but themselves. She longs to be a mother herself, as well as a loving wife, but after five years of marriage she remains childless while Harry is increasingly remote and distracted. Despite lavish parties at the Manor and the Yacht Club, Bea is lost and lonely and befriends the manor’s laundress whose work ethic and family life stir memories of who she once was.

As she drifts further from the society women and their preoccupations and closer toward Montauk’s natural beauty and community spirit, Bea finds herself drawn to a man nothing like her husband –stoic, plain spoken and enigmatic. Inspiring a strength and courage she had almost forgotten, his presence forces her to face a haunting tragedy of her past and question her future.

Desperate to embrace moments of happiness, no matter how fleeting, she soon discovers that such moments may be all she has, when fates conspire to tear her world apart…

My Review

When this book started it reminded me of the latest season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel as she spends time with her family at their summer “camp”. However, I did find this book to be very drawn out and lacking in the humor that could’ve been thrown in. In all honesty, the characters, for the most part, annoyed me. I kept checking to see how much of the book I had completed.

I gave this book 2 crowns.

I received this E-ARC from the Publishers through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Printed Letter Bookshop by: Katherine Reay

Description from the publishers through Netgalley

“Powerful, enchanting, and spirited, this novel will delight.” —Patti Callahan, bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis

Love, friendship, and family find a home at the Printed Letter Bookshop

One of Madeline Cullen’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened Madeline’s heart toward her once-treasured aunt—and the now struggling bookshop left in her care.

While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. Reeling from a recent divorce, Janet finds sanctuary within the books and within the decadent window displays she creates. Claire, though quieter than the acerbic Janet, feels equally drawn to the daily rhythms of the shop and its loyal clientele, finding a renewed purpose within its walls.

When Madeline’s professional life falls apart, and a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. Has she been too quick to dismiss her aunt’s beloved shop? And even if she has, the women’s best combined efforts may be too little, too late.

My Review:

I missed this book on my to-read list from Netgalley and when I finally saw it, it had already been released. I was able to listen to this on audio and I am so glad that I did. This was a beautiful story of coming to realize one’s true potential and challenging the things you once thought to be true.

This is a book about women, friends, mothers, family and books. The perfect combination and a must read for any book lover.

I gave this book 5 crowns.

I received this E-ARC from the publishers through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Scent Keeper by: Erica Bauermeister

Happy Book Birthday!!!
Look at this gorgeous cover!

Erica Bauermeister, the national bestselling author of The School of Essential Ingredients, presents a moving and evocative coming-of-age novel about childhood stories, families lost and found, and how a fragrance conjures memories capable of shaping the course of our lives. 

Emmeline lives an enchanted childhood on a remote island with her father, who teaches her about the natural world through her senses. What he won’t explain are the mysterious scents stored in the drawers that line the walls of their cabin, or the origin of the machine that creates them. As Emmeline grows, however, so too does her curiosity, until one day the unforeseen happens, and Emmeline is vaulted out into the real world–a place of love, betrayal, ambition, and revenge. To understand her past, Emmeline must unlock the clues to her identity, a quest that challenges the limits of her heart and imagination.

Lyrical and immersive, The Scent Keeper explores the provocative beauty of scent, the way it can reveal hidden truths, lead us to the person we seek, and even help us find our way back home.

Excerpt

THE BEGINNING

Back before there was time, I lived with my father on an island, tucked away in an endless archipelago that reached up out of the cold salt water, hungry for air. Growing up in the midst of the rain and moss and ancient thick-barked trees, it was easy to forget that the vast majority of our island was underwater—descending down two, three, five hundred bone-chilling feet. Forever really, for you could never hold your breath long enough to get to the bottom.

Those islands were a place to run away, although I didn’t understand that at the time. I had nothing to run from and every reason to stay. My father was everything. I’ve heard people say that someone is their “whole world,” their eyes filled with stars. But my father was my world, in a way so literal it can still grab my thoughts, pick them up, and toss them around like driftwood in a storm.

Our cabin was set in a clearing at the center of the island. We were not the first to live there—those islands have a long history of runaways. Almost a century ago there were French fur trappers, with accents that lilted and danced. Loggers with mountainous shoulders, and fishermen who chased silver-backed salmon. Later came the draft dodgers, hiding from war. Hippies, dodging rules. The islands took them all in—the storms and the long, dark winters spat most out again. The beauty there was raw; it could kill as easily as it could astonish.

Our cabin had been built by the truest of runaways. He set up in a place where no one could find him and built his home from trees he felled himself. He spent forty years on the island, clearing space for a garden and planting an orchard. One autumn, however, he simply disappeared. Drowned, it was said. After that the cabin was empty for years until we arrived and found the apple trees, opened the door. Raised the population of the island to two.

I don’t remember arriving on the island myself; I was too young. I only remember living there. I remember the paths that wandered through those watchful trees, the odor of the dirt beneath our feet, as dark and complicated as fairy tales. I remember our one-room cabin, the big chair by the woodstove, and our collection of stories and science books. I remember the smell of wood smoke and pine pitch in my father’s beard as he read to me at night, and the ghostly aroma of the runaway’s pipe tobacco, an olfactory reminder that had sunk into the walls and never quite disappeared. I remember the way the rain seemed to talk to the roof as I fell asleep, and how the fire would snap and tell it to be quiet.

Most of all, I remember the drawers.

My father had begun building them when we moved into the cabin, and when he was done they lined our walls from floor to ceiling. The drawers were small things, their polished wooden fronts no bigger than my child-sized hands. They surrounded us like the forest and islands outside our door.

Each drawer contained a single small bottle, and inside each bottle was a piece of paper, rolled around itself like a secret. The glass stoppers of the bottles were sealed with different colored waxes—red in the top rows, green for those below. My father almost never opened the bottles.

“We need to keep them safe,” he said.

But I could hear the papers whispering inside the drawers.

Come find me.

“Please?” I’d ask, again and again.

Finally, he agreed. He took out a leather book filled with numbers and carefully added one to the list. Then he turned to the wall of drawers, pondering his choice.

“Up there,” I said, pointing up high to where the red-wax bottles lived. Stories always begin at the top of a page.

My father had built a ladder that slid along the wall, and I watched him climb it almost to the ceiling, reaching into a drawer and drawing out its bottle. When he was back on the ground, he carefully broke the seal. I could hear glass scritching against glass as he pulled out the stopper, then the rustle of the paper as he unrolled it into a plain, white square. He leaned in close, inhaling, then wrote another number in the book.

I meant to stay still, but I leaned forward, too. My father looked up and smiled, holding out the paper.

“Here,” he said. “Breathe in, but not too much. Let the smell introduce itself.”

I did as he said. I kept my chest tight and my breath shallow. I could feel the tendrils of a fragrance tickling the inside of my nose, slipping into the curls of my black hair. I could smell campfires made from a wood I didn’t recognize; dirt more parched than any I had ever known; moisture, ready to burst from clouds in a sky I’d never seen. It smelled like waiting.

“Now, breathe in deeply,” my father said.

I inhaled, and fell into the fragrance like Alice down the rabbit hole.

– – –

Later, after the bottle had been stoppered and sealed and put back in its drawer, I turned to my father. I could still smell the last of the fragrance lingering in the air.

“Tell me its story,” I asked him. “Please.”

“All right, little lark,” he said. He sat in the big chair and I nestled in next to him. The fire crackled in the woodstove; the world outside was still.

“Once upon a time, Emmeline . . .” he began, and his voice rolled around the rhyme of it as if the words were made of chocolate.

Once upon a time, Emmeline, there was a beautiful queen who was trapped in a great white castle. None of the big, bold knights could save her. “Bring me a smell that will break the walls,” she asked a brave young boy named Jack . . .

I listened, while the scents found their hiding places in the cracks in the floorboards, and the words of the story, and the rest of my life.

About the Author

About the Author:
Erica Bauermeister is the author of the bestselling novel The School of Essential Ingredients, Joy for Beginners, and The Lost Art of Mixing. She is also the co-author of the non-fiction works, 500 Great Books by Women: A Reader’s Guide and Let’s Hear It For the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. She has a PhD in literature from the University of Washington, and has taught there and at Antioch University. She is a founding member of the Seattle7Writers and currently lives in Port Townsend, Washington.About the Book:
Erica Bauermeister, the national bestselling author of The School of Essential Ingredients, presents a moving and evocative coming-of-age novel about childhood stories, families lost and found, and how a fragrance conjures memories capable of shaping the course of our lives. 

Park Avenue Summer by: Renee Rosen

Publication Date: April 30, 2019

Description from the Publishers through Netgalley

“‘Mad Men meets The Devil Wears Prada,’ which might as well be saying ‘put me in your cart immediately.’” —PopSugar

It’s 1965 and Cosmopolitan magazine’s brazen new editor-in-chief—Helen Gurley Brown—shocks America and saves a dying publication by daring to talk to women about all things off-limits…

New York City is filled with opportunities for single girls like Alice Weiss, who leaves her small midwestern town to chase her big-city dreams and unexpectedly lands the job of a lifetime working for the first female editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, Helen Gurley Brown.

Nothing could have prepared Alice for the world she enters as editors and writers resign on the spot, refusing to work for the woman who wrote the scandalous bestseller Sex and the Single Girl, and confidential memos, article ideas, and cover designs keep finding their way into the wrong hands. When someone tries to pull Alice into a scheme to sabotage her boss, she is more determined than ever to help Helen succeed. While pressure mounts at the magazine and Alice struggles to make her way in New York, she quickly learns that in Helen Gurley Brown’s world, a woman can demand to have it all.

My Review

I know it was cheesy but I am huge fan of The Devil Wears Prada and when I saw that this book seemed similar, I wanted to give it chance. I adored Alice and her her new boss Helen. Helen wasn’t afraid to break down in front of Alice and was willing to give her a chance even though she didn’t have any experience in the magazine business.

This was a story of female empowerment and the ways in which a woman had to fight through a male dominated business to make her mark. This is based on actually events but created with the liberty of a fictional novel. It was not dull or dry, it was creative and well written.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and highly recommend it.

I gave this book 4 crowns.

I received this E-ARC from the publishers through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Secret of Clouds by: Alyson Richman

Publication date: February 19, 2019

Description from the Publishers through Netgalley

From the #1 international bestselling author of The Lost Wife and The Velvet Hours comes an emotionally charged story about a mother’s love, a teacher’s promise, and a child’s heart…

Katya, a rising ballerina, and Sasha, a graduate student, are young and in love when an unexpected tragedy befalls their native Kiev. Years later, after the couple has safely emigrated to America the consequences of this incident cause their son, Yuri, to be born with a rare health condition that isolates him from other children. Maggie, a passionate and dedicated teacher agrees to tutor Yuri at his home, even though she is haunted by her own painful childhood memories. As the two forge a deep and soulful connection, Yuri’s boundless curiosity and unique wisdom inspires Maggie to make difficult changes in her own life. And she’ll never realize just how strong Yuri has made her — until she needs that strength the most…

A novel that will make readers examine what it means to live life with a full heart.

My Review

This was such a beautiful story and it is one that has stayed with me even after I finished it. I loved that not only is there the main focus on Yuri and his teacher Maggie, but we get the back story to Yuri’s parents and Maggie’s life outside of being a teacher as well.

This book had an interesting mix of contemporary points of view and historical fiction as well. I was not bored nor was I confused with the varying points of views.

Each character’s story was full of life and moving. It was very easy to become attached to the characters. This book is so well written and I could not put it down. I will definitely be picking up her other books.

I gave this book 5 crowns.

I received this E-ARC from the Publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Girls at 17 Swann Street by: Yara Zgheib

Publication date: February 5, 2019

Description from the Publishers through Netgalley

*A BookMovement Group Read*

Yara Zgheib’s poetic and poignant debut novel is a haunting portrait of a young woman’s struggle with anorexia on an intimate journey to reclaim her life. 

The chocolate went first, then the cheese, the fries, the ice cream. The bread was more difficult, but if she could just lose a little more weight, perhaps she would make the soloists’ list. Perhaps if she were lighter, danced better, tried harder, she would be good enough. Perhaps if she just ran for one more mile, lost just one more pound.

Anna Roux was a professional dancer who followed the man of her dreams from Paris to Missouri. There, alone with her biggest fears – imperfection, failure, loneliness – she spirals down anorexia and depression till she weighs a mere eighty-eight pounds. Forced to seek treatment, she is admitted as a patient at 17 Swann Street, a peach pink house where pale, fragile women with life-threatening eating disorders live. Women like Emm, the veteran; quiet Valerie; Julia, always hungry. Together, they must fight their diseases and face six meals a day.

Every bite causes anxiety. Every flavor induces guilt. And every step Anna takes toward recovery will require strength, endurance, and the support of the girls at 17 Swann Street.

Recognition

 February 2019 Indie Next selection

 February 2019 LibraryReads selection

My Review

I read this book in less than 24 hours. I was so incredibly invested in Anna’s story and I was on the verge of tears for most of it. I adored this debut novel and recommend this read highly.

The subject matter is devastating and intense but one that is an eye opener to read about in this way. I look forward to the next book that this author writes.

I gave this book 5 crowns.

I received this E-ARC from the Publishers through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Night of Miracles by: Elizabeth Berg

Night of Miracles

Description from the publisher through Netgalley

The feel-good book of the year: a delightful novel of friendship, community, and the way small acts of kindness can change your life, by the bestselling author of The Story of Arthur Truluv

Lucille Howard is getting on in years, but she stays busy. Thanks to the inspiration of her dearly departed friend Arthur Truluv, she has begun to teach baking classes, sharing the secrets to her delicious classic Southern yellow cake, the perfect pinwheel cookies, and other sweet essentials. Her classes have become so popular that she’s hired Iris, a new resident of Mason, Missouri, as an assistant. Iris doesn’t know how to bake but she needs to keep her mind off a big decision she sorely regrets.

When a new family moves in next door and tragedy strikes, Lucille begins to look out for Lincoln, their son. Lincoln’s parents aren’t the only ones in town facing hard choices and uncertain futures. In these difficult times, the residents of Mason come together and find the true power of community—just when they need it the most.

“Elizabeth Berg’s characters jump right off the page and into your heart” said Fannie Flagg about The Story of Arthur Truluv. The same could be said about Night of Miracles, a heartwarming novel that reminds us that the people we come to love are often the ones we don’t expect.

My Review

If you read my review of The Story of Arthur Truluv, then you know that I loved that story.  I was so excited to see that this was a companion novel to that beautiful story.  I jumped in expecting it to continue with the story of Maddy but this story was a bit different.  It took me a little bit of time to get into, but once I did, I was all in.  

I love Elizabeth Berg’s writing style and her stories are so atmospheric and touching that I can’t complain about any of them.  This story grabs hold of your heart and does not let it go even long after you are done reading the story.  

I gave this book 4 crowns. 

I received this E-Arc from the publishers through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

The Dinner List by: Rebecca Serle

The Dinner List

We’ve been waiting for an hour. That’s what Audrey says. She states it with a little bit of an edge, her words just bordering on cursive. That’s the thing I think first. Not: Audrey Hepburn is at my birthday dinner, but Audrey Hepburn is annoyed.

At one point or another, we’ve all been asked to name five people, living or dead, with whom we’d like to have dinner. Why do we choose the people we do? And what if that dinner was to actually happen? These are the questions Rebecca Serle contends within her utterly captivating novel, The Dinner List, a story imbued with the same delightful magical realism as One Day,and the life-changing romance of Me Before You.

When Sabrina arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also three significant people from her past, and well, Audrey Hepburn. As the appetizers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there’s a reason these six people have been gathered together.

Delicious but never indulgent, sweet with just the right amount of bitter, The Dinner List is a romance for our times. Bon appetit.

 

My Review:

When I first heard about this book, I was so excited to read it.  I was lucky enough to receive an ARC from the publishers unsolicited.  I have finally gotten around to reading it and I really enjoyed it.  It was by no means astounding in any way but the premise was one in which we have been asked several times.

If you can invite 5 people, dead or alive, to have dinner with, who would they be?  Audrey’s choices were interesting and the conversation that occurred at this birthday dinner, was important for Audrey.

This was a sweet read and I gave it 4 crowns.

4_crowns

Dracul by: Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker

Dracul

The prequel to Dracula, inspired by notes and texts left behind by the author of the classic novel, Dracul is a riveting novel of gothic suspense that reveals not only Dracula’s true origins but Bram Stoker’s — and the tale of the enigmatic woman who connects them.

It is 1868, and a twenty-one-year-old Bram Stoker waits in a desolate tower to face an indescribable evil. Armed only with crucifixes, holy water, and a rifle, he prays to survive a single night, the longest of his life. Desperate to record what he has witnessed, Bram scribbles down the events that led him here…

A sickly child, Bram spent his early days bedridden in his parents’ Dublin home, tended to by his caretaker, a young woman named Ellen Crone. When a string of strange deaths occur in a nearby town, Bram and his sister Matilda detect a pattern of bizarre behavior by Ellen — a mystery that deepens chillingly until Ellen vanishes suddenly from their lives. Years later, Matilda returns from studying in Paris to tell Bram the news that she has seen Ellen — and that the nightmare they’ve thought long ended is only beginning.

 

My Review:

A few confessions:  1.  I have never read Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

2.  I have never seen any of the movies about Dracula.

3.  J.D. Baker is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.  (see his other books in early book posts)

I listened to Dracul in the week before Halloween and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was narrated by a full cast.  I love it when it sounds like I am listening to a play.  Dracul did not disappoint.  It was the perfect blend of historical fiction and creepiness.  Each character brought so much to the story.

Ellen was the tie between Dracula and Bram and the rest of Bram’s family played such an integral part to the story.  There were definitely times that I was a bit creeped out while driving to and from work, but I had a great time listening to this.

A few days ago, I came home to the finished book in the mail from the publisher and couldn’t be more grateful.  I love the way it looks on my shelf.  It also had PR info about the way in which this book was done.  Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker had an connection that worked so well for this story.  By being able to utilize Bram’s notes and diaries, they were able to create something that I had a hard time distinguishing if it was non-fiction or not.

I gave this book 5 crowns.

5_crowns