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A Small But Mighty Stack

Small but mighty stack of books

September 23, 2019

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

I cannot for the life of me believe that today is the first day of fall. Here in Maine, we are waking up to crisp mornings, orange leaves on the trees, and pumpkin spice EVERYWHERE!  My September reading is off to a great start. From a quintessential Maine novel to a love story that had me at “Hello”, to a sequel 34 years in the making……..my mini book stack is a mighty one. Let’s dive in!

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout anyone?  A few quick notes about this book.  First, it takes place in the fictional town of Crosby, Maine.  Second, this book was an Emmy Award winning HBO mini series. Lastly, in 2009, Elizabeth Strout won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.  Not too shabby. So why all the fuss? Strout masterfully captures the essence of small town living in Maine. Though Olive Kitteridge  is one novel, it is composed of thirteen short stories starring ordinary people.  All of the stories link back in some way to Olive Kitteridge, a retired school teacher.  Olive is not the easiest of characters to know or like. She will no doubt bother you, frustrate you and just plain drive you crazy.  However, as you get to know her throughout the book, you will find glimmers of her sensitivity much stronger than she lets on. With this said, it is the cast of colorful characters and their stories that paint the different shades of Olive.  Readers will experience Olive through many decades. There is no shortage of grief, loneliness and aging. Raw emotions are abundant, leaving readers vulnerable to their own feelings. Though this is not the most uplifting book I have read, it’s subtleties are extraordinary.  If you look hard enough, you will find love. I thought this book was brilliant. Give it a go! If you have already read this, guess what?????? The sequel entitled Olive Again, comes out this October.

Moving on, if you are looking for a novel that will keep you glued to the couch, try The Girl He Used To Know by Tracey Garvis Graves.  This book has all the feels.  Annika and Jonathan have a unique love story, unlike any I have ever read.  Plan to fall in love with Annika from page one. She is quiet. She is awkward. She is completely lost in social situations.  She is about to throw in the towel with her whole college experience when she joins the chess team. Annika thrives playing this complex and ever changing game.  As she blooms in this setting, the feeling of finally belonging somewhere sets in. It is here where she meets Jonathan, the soon to be the love of her life. Let me just tell you this………… I LOVE THEM TOGETHER!!!!! Their relationship is filled with an innocence that will leave you speechless.  However, there is a catch. Something leads to their breakup. A decade later though, they end up running into each other. As they gingerly unpack their feelings for one another, new discoveries are made, leading them down a whole new path of love. Sorry, but that is all I can say without spoiling this.  Tender moments and harsh realities will keep you hooked. Believe me when I say, you won’t put this book down until the very end.

Last but not least, I devoured the highly anticipated sequel to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale..The Testaments.  First let me say…….. I LOVED IT.  But here’s the scoop. I read The Handmaid’s Tale a few years ago and enjoyed it, but was frustrated with the ending.  I simply wanted more!!! I then proceeded to watch all three seasons of the TV show, which really quenched my curiosity. Recently, I read The Testaments.  Without giving too much away, The Testaments takes place 15 years later.  It most certainly has more meat to it than The Handmaid’s Tale.  It is told by three narrators, one of them being Aunt Lydia. The perspectives have a much different tone in this story.  We know from the first book the basics of Gilead and its “purpose”. It set readers up with a dystopia that would be any woman’s worst nightmare.   The Testaments gives readers a deeper look into the Aunts of Gilead, what growing up in this twisted Republic really looked like and the perspective of the people living outside of this regine.  This book was much different than I expected (like many of us, I am not sure what I was expecting). Because I have seen the show, I had my visuals established and had a pretty good foundation going in.  I was pumped to get back to Gilead, get some more dirt from the people living there, and figure out once and for all a way to eradicate this absolute hell hole. The Testaments did reference a few things that occurred only on the TV show.  Because of this, I wonder if the book would have been more difficult to understand if I hadn’t watched the show.  I will never know! Nevertheless, if you are a fan………read this. It did not disappoint.

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. Click on the books below to purchase! Happy reading!!!!!

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

The Girl He Used To Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Post Summer Catch Up With Kelly

A stack of books viewed from the side

September 5, 2019

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

It has been weeks since my last letter to you. Time flies by when you are on vacation, spending time with friends and family, and reading wonderful books! Nevertheless, summer is over 😢😢 and fall is in the air 😁😁. Today, I thought it would be great to recap a bunch of books that I’ve read recently. Now is the time to get everyone’s fall TBR piles stacked and ready to go. I look forward to writing to you often this fall Mr. H.

Until Next time!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. I am looking forward to everyone’s comments on this post. I would love to know what everyone is reading!


The Perfect Wife
by JP Delaney is a fantastic read. What started off as a thriller, quickly turned into so much more. Abby, a mother, surfer, and artist wakes up one day dazed and confused. She has no idea who she is or where she is. Her husband gently informs her of an accident that happened many years ago. Before I go any further, The Perfect Wife is the kind of book to read without knowing too much going into it. I was pleasantly greeted with surprises, twists, and sharp turns along the way. Without divulging too much information, I will say that this book is filled to the brim with mystery surrounding Abby and her tech-savvy husband. Delaney’s story is so intriguing that you will be hooked from page one. It is the perfect blend of domestic noir with a splash of sci-fi and the unconditional love of a mother. I had an extremely difficult time putting this fast-paced novel down. I highly recommend this read. It is crazy different and crazy good! Thank you to Random House (Ballantine Books) via Netgalley for an early look at this book. It is out now!!!!!

P.S. Click here to purchase The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney

Wow!!!!!! The Unbreakables by Lisa Barr was an amazing read for me this summer. First of all, the cover alone had me at “Hello”! In addition to my cover love, Barr’s book was overflowing with passion, betrayal, and self-discovery (this is my jam). The story follows Sophie Bloom, a 42-year-old mother who discovers on her birthday that her husband has been having multiple (and I mean multiple) affairs. So what does she do??????? Sophie takes off for France to rediscover who she really is and what her life is now going to look like. Cheating husbands and marriages falling to pieces are not new themes in the world of fiction (or nonfiction). Barr manages to take it a step further by untangling the roles of infidelity, love, and friendship with her characters. Mt recommendation is to jump right on in with this book. It is fast, engaging, and “unputdownable”. Go grab it now!!!!

P.S. Click here to purchase The Unbreakables by Lisa Barr.

I am an absolute sucker for the classic frenemies turn lovers romance story. Nina Bocci’s new book, On the Corner of Love and Hate, met my romance reading needs this summer. Emmanuelle and Cooper have been friends since they were kids. Now that they are back in their childhood hometown and working in the same office, Emmanuelle realizes just how much of a grudge she holds against Cooper. When Cooper decides to run for town Mayor, Emmanuelle takes on the difficult job of managing his campaign and his personal life. Bocci’s story follows these two bickering “friends” as they both navigate the campaign trail and their feelings towards one another. As it gets closer to voting time, Emmanuelle needs to make some personal decisions that will have an impact on moving forward with Cooper and the race to a campaign victory.

I absolutely adored On the Corner of Love and Hate by Nina Bocci. I loved all the characters in this small town romance story. The political backdrop was the perfect setup for Emmanuelle to figure out her true feelings for Cooper. Their relationship had the exact amount of wit, charm, and sarcasm to keep the pages turning. The romance was sweet and the steam level was extremely mild. Bocci’s story is an easy-breezy read that will leave you grinning from ear to ear. I look forward to future books from this author. Thank you to Gallery Books via Netgalley for the advanced read of this book in exchange for an honest review.

P.S. Click here to purchase On the Corner of Love and Hate by Nina Bocci

All you Great Gatsby Lovers out there are going to devour Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda: The Love Letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald. I am so amazed that the letters between F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda Fitzgerald were found and preserved. Even more impressive is that these letters were pieced together to form an intimate look at the personal life of this literary couple. On the outside, Scott and Zelda appeared glamorous and put together. Cocktails, great food, and artistic friends were only a small part of the equation though. Their attractive lifestyle was filled with alcoholism, health issues, mental illness, and financial struggles. I didn’t realize until I read this book, that Scott and Zelda lived a good portion of their lives apart. With Zelda in and out of mental health institutions and Scott traveling for work, caring for their daughter, and managing his own health issues, their relationship truly depended on their letters to one another. Even though their life together was filled with heartbreak, Scott and Zelda managed to hold on to hope and dreams for a better tomorrow.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a lover of literature and the works of great American writers from the 20th century. It was an honor to get an inside peek into the once private letters of such an iconic couple. Thank you to Scribner via Netgalley for the advanced read of this book in exchange for an honest review.

P.S. Click here to purchase Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda: The Love Letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald

If you are looking for an intimate read with unlimited depth, then On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong is the book for you. Vuong’s main character and speaker in the story is named Little Dog. In his twenties, Little Dog tells his life story and his family history through letters he has written to his mom (who can’t read). He holds absolutely nothing back in what he has to say. In addition to talking about his mother’s past living in Vietnam during the war, he also describes their complex relationship and how it impacted his life. He also dives deep into his own sexuality and coming of age as a Vietnamese boy growing up in Connecticut. Vuong’s writing is extremely raw and profoundly tender. Not surprising considering he is also a published poet. I had the pleasure of meeting and listening to Ocean Vuong at Print Bookstore in Portland, Maine this summer. It was a beautiful evening filled with words, passion, and wonderful people. His new book, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is beyond stunning. His writing is lyrical, poetic, and breathtaking. When I finished Vuong’s book, I was completely speechless. I highly recommend picking up this book. It is truly a work of literary art.

P.S. Click here to purchase On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

If you have read anything by Blake Crouch, then you have a pretty good idea of how his books flow. If this is your first Crouch book…buckle up, it is a wild ride. The premise of his new book revolves around something the media is calling, False Memory Syndrome. Basically, individuals are having vivid memories of a former life they never lived. The memories are so strong and disturbing, that the victims of this syndrome are literally going mad, even resorting to suicide to escape the insanity. In comes Barry Sutton, a NYC cop who is investigating this phenomenon, and neuroscientist Helena Smith, who is working on developing technology to preserve one’s most important memories. Memories, the physics of time, and many twists and turns will have you on the edge of your seat! Warning…this book moves fast. Once you start, you are in it to win it. Crouch’s Dark Matter rocked my world, and Recursion rocked it again! Happy reading!

P.S. Click here to purchase Recursion by Blake Crouch

E-I-E-I-O

Book cover of The Farm with an orange background

The Farm by Joanne Ramos

June 3, 2019

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

A story overflowing with ideas that spark debate is my kind of read. The Farm by Joanne Ramos does just that. Ramos’ book explores the financial, moral, and ethical aspects of surrogacy. This contemporary work of fiction pairs motherhood and consumerism in a way that leaves readers with more questions than answers.

The Farm is told through the eyes of several characters in the book with the primary focus on Jane.  Jane is an immigrant from the Philippines living in New York with her infant daughter. Jane hustles each and every day working various low-paying jobs to make ends meet.  Her life changes drastically when she is offered the job of becoming a surrogate for a wealthy client. For nine months, she will stay at Golden Oaks (The Farm) where her pregnancy will be micromanaged by the Golden Oak staff. Throughout her stay, Jane must adhere to the rules of the contract to be paid upon the delivery of the baby.  At The Farm, Jane and the other surrogates receive healthy organic food, top-notch health care, and live in posh quarters. Despite these generous accommodations, Jane feels stressed being away from her own young daughter. As the story progresses, Jane and the other surrogates encounter a few surprises at Golden Oaks that leave them questioning the morals of the company.  With the money-hungry director of Golden Oaks eager to make her own financial success, and a group of surrogates questioning her ways, Golden Oaks quickly becomes a place filled with lies and exploitation.

Having a child via a surrogate is not a new practice.  Families are happily created each and every day through the help of surrogates. I was really intrigued by Joanne Ramos’s debut novel.  Though this is a work of fiction, I found its premise quite real and alarmingly believable. You know what it so scary Mr. H…a place like Golden Oaks doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibilities these days.   When a farm is literally growing babies and the hottest real estate around is a woman’s womb, you know there is trouble on the horizon. With that said, The Farm is totally a book for now.  After reading this story,  I am now more than ever interested in the surrogacy process and how the unexpected scenarios play out.  Ramos’ book shows what can happen when an infertility option or a simple act of kindness turns into a money-making business.  Class and privilege both have starring roles in this brilliant novel. This book examines how much people are actually willing to sacrifice for financial gain.   I encourage readers to go grab it with a friend and start reading. This is a book club must for 2019!!

I wish you much love and reading always!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S.  Surrogacy is not legal in all states.  As of right now, there is no Federal law providing uniform guidelines.  Each state is responsible for developing their own surrogacy law. What is the law where you live?????

Click here to purchase The Farm by Joanne Ramos

A Memoir That Makes You Go 😱

Educated book cover

September 9, 2018

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

I just read a memoir that I most certainly could not put down. I found the pages of this book practically turn themselves. Readers will absolutely escape their own reality and be transported back to Westover’s childhood where they will be thanking their lucky stars it was not their own. I was beyond captivated by Tara Westover’s story and utterly baffled by her childhood and family dynamics. In her memoir titled Educated, Westover shares her story of growing up on a mountain in Idaho with her parents and siblings. Her father was a survivalist (always preparing for the end of the word…literally) and a religious fanatic. He ran a scrap metal business on his land (basically a dangerous junkyard) with his capable children who provided free labor.  He truly believed in the “will of God”. As someone who was anti-government and western medicine, he raised his family off the grid (no birth certificates, doctors, schools, etc.).  Westover’s mother, a midwife and a self -trained herbalist/healer was the primary “Doctor” to her family no matter the severity. Though her parents claimed to have successfully homeschooled their children, the memoir tells us differently.

Westover grew up with essentially no formal education.  When old enough, she worked in her dad’s scrap metal pile in harm’s way enduring serious injuries.  She was mentally and physically abused by one of her brothers. Wanting more from her life, she challenged her parent’s beliefs and somehow got herself accepted to college where she experienced a classroom and formal education for the first time at age 17.  As the years went by, she continued to struggle with adapting to the mainstream, while battling emotional push and pull with her parents and family. Despite her family drama, Westover goes on to study and earn a Ph.D. from the prestigious Cambridge University.

This story was downright jaw-dropping.  I paused throughout the book many times saying “WHAT?!?!”. I was stunned and mesmerized by Westover’s story and how it’s craziness just kept intensifying.  It no doubt raises questions on what is the definition of “responsible parenting”, who gets to judge, and where/when the line is drawn?

I am hoping my friends enjoy the strangeness of this memoir for what it is.  If anything, it will make them appreciate their own stories!!!!!!!!

Enjoy!!!!!

Your Biggest Fan,

                                                                                              Kelly

P.S. Check out two more books with a similar vibe that I absolutely LOVED…

To purchase each book, simply click on its cover!

The Great Alone book cover

The Great Alone (fiction) by Kristin Hannah

The Glass Castle book cover

The Glass Castle (memoir) by Jeannette Walls

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