Book Review

Book Review: The Orchid House 

A coworker recommended the author Lucinda Riley to me, and I’m so glad she did! I’ve read several of her books and I’m so excited to be able to share one of them with you. So, today I’ll be reviewing Lucinda Riley’s The Orchid House.

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Just look at that gorgeous cover! I know I shouldn’t judge books by their covers, but I’ll admit that sometimes a pretty cover does make me more likely to give a book a try. The Orchid House is a sprawling book that contains a lot of history and romance. Like most of Riley’s books, this one is split in its narrative between the past and present as a present-day character learns more about her family secrets that date back to the 1930s.

Orchids, a beautiful plant that dies so easily under the wrong conditions, play a significant role in the story both literally and metaphorically. The family owns a greenhouse and the master of the estate is so fond of orchids that he travels to exotic locations to try to find the best orchids that he can take back to England. However, there are other reasons for his frequent travels, and when these secrets are revealed, his whole family dynamic is threatened and changed forever.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot because I don’t want to give away any of the secrets, but I will say that this book is an emotional whirlwind that ends in a very satisfying way. I definitely recommend this to people who enjoy historical romance with lush descriptions!

Book Review

Book Review: The Storyteller

Every so often, I read a book that pulls me in so much that I obsess over it until I’m finished and then I still think about it for a long time and annoy all my friends by persistently recommending they read it until someone does. I have just had another experience like that with a book I read for a book club next month: The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult.

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Now, I think I’ve been pretty outspoken about how tired I am of historical fiction that deals with World War II. There’s just so much of it on the market. But this narrative was so emotional and personal that I was drawn in and blown away. Picoult introduces a pretty large cast of characters that have their own narration time, but it really works here. We have the main character Sage who is dealing with her own grief and insecurities in the modern day when she meets Josef, a gentle and kind old man who tells her that he was actually a Nazi fifty years ago. She then teams up with Leo, a Department of Justice Agent, to try to verify his story. We also get a lot of narration from Sage’s grandmother, a holocaust survivor.

I don’t want to go into much detail about the plot because I don’t want to give anything away (there’s a signature Picoult plot twist, of course, to look forward to!) but the structure of the narration was intricate and balanced so that I felt the pace never dragged. I felt a connection with the main character Sage, and I appreciated that Picoult allowed her to, at times, be very flawed. She seemed like a realistic human being that I could understand and relate to.

The information about the holocaust was devastating and emotionally powerful. A lot of books manufacture emotion by mentioning innately sad things (I’m looking at you, Nicholas Sparks), but this book really earned my emotion. It wasn’t trying to just make me sad because the holocaust was a topic – it really made me feel attached to the specific characters so that I cared what they were going through.

Overall, I think that everyone should read this book. I think it will definitely appeal to people who like World War II history or general historical fiction, but it will also appeal to people who like domestic fiction that analyzes characters’ relationships.

 

Book Review

Book Review: Sarah’s Key

There have been so many wonderful books written about World War II, but sometimes I get tired of reading them. It’s emotionally difficult for me to read about the holocaust over and over again, so I’ll admit that when I’m in the mood for historical fiction, I often prefer to grab something based in a different time period. However, there is one book that I’m so glad I read because it was quite the gem: Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay.

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This book is set in Paris and has two timelines: half of the book takes place during World War II and the other half takes place in the present. Both halves are intricately intertwined as the narrative in the present is also working towards discovering what happened in the aftermath of the events of the past. Typically, when I read books that have two big storylines or timelines, I find myself strongly preferring one over the other and wishing that there was a singular focus, but that was not the case for this book. I actually thought this worked beautifully and I was engaged with both timelines.

This book explores very complicated themes but does so in a relatable and entertaining way. Whenever the past of World War II is getting too dark, the narrative switches to the complicated domestic relationships of the present. It has a good balance of light and dark and past and present and history and domesticity. I read it in one sitting because I was just so enamored that I didn’t want to put it down.

So, for anyone who is looking for historical fiction, I would highly recommend Sarah’s Key. And if you, like me, are getting tired of reading World War II narratives, I assure you that this one can be set apart from the rest. It was a great reading experience.

Book Review

Best Books of 2016!

To be completely honest, I felt like I didn’t read as many masterpieces in 2016 as I have in previous years. I had several readings slumps where I just didn’t like anything, but some gems did still appear! Here are the top 7 books I read in 2016:

1. The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

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This contemporary fiction novel follows the lives of four siblings who have to restructure their lives after the nest egg that they were expecting is suddenly threatened. Read my full review here!

2. Peach Pies & Alibis by Ellery Adams

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This is the second book in this cozy mystery series which centers around a witch who bakes magical goodies. It’s a fun bit of fluff that I found more engrossing than the average cozy mystery.

3. Love Your Enemies by Sharon Salzberg

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I’m sure we all have that one person in life who grates our nerves. This self-help nonfiction book helped me change my perspective and find compassion instead of irritation.

4. The White Magic Five and Dime by Steve Hockensmith

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This was a great mystery about a tarot-card reading con artist who has to solve her mother’s murder while considering whether or not she’s making the right choices in life.

5. Girl Online by Zoe Sugg

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This was such a fun bit of YA fiction. It centers around an anxiety-ridden blogger whose worst fears are realized when her online persona becomes public.

6. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

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I know I’m late to the party on this one, but I love it. This one is historical fiction about a family in Afghanistan. It was heartbreaking but beautiful.

7. Murphy’s Law by Rhys Bowen

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I really enjoyed this book that launched a historical cozy mystery series about an Irish immigrant. I appreciated that, while still cozy in tone, the series has been dealing with a few darker issues. I’ve only read the first three books so far, but I’m very curious to see where everything is headed.

I’m very excited for 2017! I have a lot of reading and writing goals, and I hope I’m able to share some great content with all of you. Have a lovely rest of your 2016!