What I Read: January 2016

Well, I read a lot of Phyrne Fisher novels, since I want to catch up with the TV show. I tried out a new series. And I picked up a few new authors, too!

what i read january

 

Contemporary

Some Luck

some luck

Verdict: A great look into the 1920’s to 1950’s. Must read for saga-lovers.

I loved this novel. I can see why it Jane Smiley is a Pulitzer Prize winner. Not only was the story highly entertaining, but the prose was beautiful. The story was amazing! It followed so many people, who went through so many changes. During the time of the novel, America went through a ton of changes. Since the family started on a farm, but slowly integrated technology.

The Book of Speculation

the book of speculation

Verdict: Not what I expected. Great for learning about circuses.

I thought that this novel would be more about books. It was about a librarian, but a former librarian. The novel is really more about how an old novel intertwines with a family of circus performers. While I liked how the novel was written, it wasn’t what I was expected. I was thinking something more along the lines of Charlie Lovett’s novels.

The Green Mill Murder (Phryne Fisher #5)

the green mill murder

Verdict: Another fun, quick, mystery.

The Green Mill Murder was interesting because it was based on Phryne’s attendance at a dance-a-ton. It reminded it me a little of that Gilmore Girl’s episode where Rory dances with her mom and that thing happens with Dean… but at least there wasn’t murder there!

Blood and Circuses (Phryne Fisher #6)

blood and circuses

Verdict: A fun Phryne Fisher novel where she leaves the life of luxury.

Phyrne leaves the life of luxury to help her friends in the circus to find out what keeps hurting the circus. Along the way, Phryne has to pick up a new name, learn a new trade, exchange her clothes for used and mended ones. It was nice to see how she acted with a different place, with a different personality, and not in a position of authority.

The Longest Night

the longest night

Verdict: Williams made a statement, but it lacked entertainment value.

I couldn’t fault the great statement that Williams made about morality standards imposed by society, but it lacked entertainment value. It was dry, boring, and I couldn’t quit cringing. The novel skipped around among narrators as it followed Nat, an Army wife, her husband, Paul, a young Army Specialist, and his boss and his boss’s wife. The most cringe-worthy moments were in the young husband’s mind. I am hope it was meant to be slightly cringe-inducing when he describes meeting his wife and thinks of her as loose, but then over the course of their marriage, never gets a chance to know the real her and why she acts the way he does. His temper flares whenever Nat does anything that embarrasses him, even having fun in front of strangers. The shame follows her wherever she goes, even when he is gone.

Overall, the setting, which is in the middle of nowhere, and involves nuclear energy, radiation, cover ups, affairs, Indian reservations, and apparently a lot of Mormons, who are all new and confusing to the Army people, was also bizarre and slightly off putting from a reader’s perspective. I ended up getting the audio-book from the library, so I heard a different voice for every narrator, so that could have influenced my perception.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing an ebook copy to review.

American Housewife

American Houswife

Verdict: Smart, biting, and funny. Must read for women with a sense of humor.

I couldn’t put this down! I thought that it was quick, funny, and insightful. My favorite story was about the reality show. The final story almost felt like a horror story. I had the audio version of this novel from my library, which was fantastic. There were several narrators who were familiar because they read books that I listen to a lot.

I let my husband listen to a few of the stories, which he loved, too.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing an ebook copy to review.

The Crossing

the crossing

Verdict: A must read for Harry Bosch or Lincoln Lawyer fans.

I look forward to Michael Connelly’s fall release every year. This year didn’t disappoint. Harry Bosh worked as an investigator for his brother, defense lawyer Mickey Haller. Bosh was torn about working for the defense, but like any good homicide detective, he didn’t want to just prove that the defendant was innocent, he wanted to find the guilty. It was made more interesting because the guilty party was very dangerous.

Since Bosch is now retired and Connelly combined Bosch and Haller in a single novel, I have to wonder if Connelly will move to just write about The Lincoln Lawyer.

Austenland

austenland

Verdict: Great entertainment for Austen fans who are looking for light fun and romance.

It’s not a genius piece of writing, but it’s incredibly entertaining. If you like Jane Austen (like you can recall the plots to all of her novels), plus quirky main characters and romances, this is for you. You can easily read it in a day or two. I had a lot of fun finding the parallels, which were sometimes laid out by the author for less well-versed readers, but the entertainment value is certainly high. I think I need to read the sequel!

Murphy’s Law

Murphy's Law

Verdict: Great for people who like mysteries who keep you on edge!

I fell in love with Rhys Bowen’s mysteries when I read the Her Royal Spyness series. So, I picked up this series about Molly Murphy, who is on the run from Irish authorities and found a way to America. Unfortunately, there was a murder that complicated her entry, but it introduced her to a handsome detective. I loved Molly’s determination to find the actual person who committed the murder and make her way in New York City.

Death of Riley

death of riley

Verdict: Great follow up!

If you like Murphy’s Law, Death of Riley is a great follow up! Molly finds herself learning from a real private investigator and living with the artsy crowd. I loved it! I can’t wait to keep reading the series. I had to make myself read other novels, or I would have finished the entire series within a week or so!

Eight Hundred Grapes

eight hundred grapes

Verdict: A great light read!

I read a lot of reviews that were 50/50 on this. Some people hated it, but others loved it. I liked it. I thought it was a touching story about family, figuring out what matters, and making the life you want.

Ruddy Gore (Phryne Fisher #7)

Ruddy Gore

Verdict: A big change for Phryne

I have been reading as many Phryne Fisher novels as possible, so I can watch the television show, since the shows are not in the same order of the books. I can’t wait to finish watching the show, since it is so well done.

This novel was a big change because Phryne actually finds a man that she seems like she wants to keep!

The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York

The Poisoner's Handbook

Verdict: A must read!

I have wanted to read this novel for a long time. I love the Jazz Age, but this novel gives an amazing look at the underbelly of society. It also talks more about how life really was for most people, not just the glamorous people, of the Jazz Age.

On Netflix, I watched a documentary based on the novel. The documentary puts pictures and videos to a lot of what went on in the novel, However, the novel was redundant, since the documentary focused more of a few of the cases touched on in the novel, while the novel expanded greatly on the fight against prohibition, since the bootleg liquor was killing so many people, as well as gave insight into other parts of how hard Dr. Norris and others fought to legitimize forensic sciences.

Thornwood House

Thornwood House

Verdict: An haunting search into the past

I couldn’t put this novel down. I would dare to put this novel into the Gothic category. Since it was Australian, I thought that made it more interesting. The main character, Audrey, inherits an old house on an enormous amount of land in a small, quiet city from the father of her child and the only man she ever loved, after he commits suicide. However, she didn’t even know that he had the property or any living family. She moves there with her 11 year old daughter. There, Audrey becomes obsessed with the house and the surrounding property. She becomes enthralled with the home’s former resident, who appears to her in dreams, as she tries to find out if he really killed his wife.

Normally, I wouldn’t have touched a book like this. And as I read this novel, I kept asking myself why I was so enchanted with it. Finally, I realized it was Gothic and Southern Gothic literature is my favorite. If I could have my dream job, it would be as an English professor, specializing in that. So, that’s why I think I found Thornwood House so enthralling.

classics

The Warden (Chronicles of Barsetshire #1)

The Warden Anthony Trollope

Verdict: The shortest Trollope novel that I’ve ever read!

This isn’t my favorite Trollope novel, I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

 

read these

American Housewife

Austenland

Eight Hundred Grapes

Some Luck

if you have time

The Poisoner’s Handbook

Murphy’s Law (Or the entire series!)

don't bother smaller

The Longest Night

The Book of Speculation

What I Read: Round Up of Monthly Reads

You can read my past monthly round ups:

December 2015

October 2015

September 2015

August 2015

July 2015

June 2015

Also, you can find other individual book reviews, tips on saving money on Audible books, book recommendations based on genres and all things related to literature here!

Don’t forget that you can add me as a friend on Goodreads so I can steal ideas on what to read next–or see your ratings, so I know what to stay away from!

 

Did you read anything good last month? Are you participating in any challenges? What should I be reading?

 

Will be linking up with The Modern Mrs. Darcy for Quick-Lit!

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The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine Review

The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine title

The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine

Verdict: I read it in a day!

If I read it in a day, you can read this review knowing that I thoroughly enjoyed this novel! I found the scenario imaginative, fascinating, and in some cases hilarious, and in other parts heartbreaking. Overall, the novel covered a range of emotions in a compelling manner.

The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine actually follows a journalist named Thomas Cleary, who covers the entertainment section of a newspaper in Los Angeles. I was a bit surprised when the main character was a man, considering the title. The story begins when Tom gets a big break by writing the obituary of powerful and famous man in Hollywood. His middle-aged daughter invites him to a dinner where he meets the closest friends of the dead man, and then Thomas’s whirlwind journey into the lives of the rich and famous begin – eventually leading him to Matilda Duplaine.

I loved the slightly fantastical, but plausible scenario of the story. The romance, intrigue, and evolution of the characters were all so compelling that I honestly couldn’t put the novel down. I had to keep reading until… fill in the blank. Things kept happening, so I wouldn’t put it down.

The crown jewel of the novel, though, without spoiling it, is the evolution of Matilda Duplaine’s character. It is heartbreakingly true to reality, so it is not just a fairy tale romance. It’s possibly one forged from rougher stuff than some grittier novels, even though it originates in a world of seemingly limitless money and luxury.

Overall, I would never hesitate to recommend this novel. I read it almost a month ago, but it sticks with me. I would love a sequel, even! Put this on your TBR list, and push it to the top. I’m stingy with my Goodreads 5s, but this novel got one.

Thank you to Netgalley for allowing me to review the novel.

Have you read it? Did you like it? Is it going to go on your reading list?

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Girl Waits With Gun


Girl Waits With Gun: Book Review
Girl Waits With Gun

Verdict: I wanted to like this book more than I did.

Girl Waits With Gun is supposed to be about the first female sheriff; however, it tells the story of her life leading up to that event, so I felt that the publisher’s synopsis was misleading. I probably wouldn’t have picked up the novel if I had known the true plot.

The novel about a family of first generation Americans who live in a rural area outside of New York City and find themselves, specifically the two older sisters and the much younger sister, alone and without male protection, which was odd for their time period. The women had the misfortune of having their horse and buggy hit by a mobster/generally bad guy’s car. The main character then sets out to seek payment for repairs, but instead incurs his wrath. The novel follows that storyline, among others.

While I didn’t hate the book, it wasn’t one that I just had to pick up or couldn’t put down. I dutifully read 30 minutes every day until I finished the novel, so it took me almost 2 weeks, which I thought was sad because I anticipated devouring the novel. Contrast that with the next novel that I picked up, which was similar in length and style, but I finished that in 3 days.

In hindsight, I can’t put my finger on anything particularly wrong with the novel, other than maybe I just didn’t like the characters. They were supposed to be quirky, but they felt forced and just weird. I didn’t feel any particular empathy for them. I wished that there was a romantic component to the novel because that would have probably kept me reading, but the repetitiveness of the plot was tedious. There are only so many times that I can read about the main characters not listening to the sheriff. It might be true to history, but it doesn’t make it interesting.

My honest assessment of the book is don’t bother reading it. If yo don’t u do want to read it, I wouldn’t push it up high on your reading list or pay for it. The library would be the way to go. I honestly couldn’t stand to read it, so I ended up using an audible credit to listen to it, even though I am reviewing it for Netgalley. It was a waste of a credit, but I wasn’t going to be able to force myself through it, otherwise.

So, history buffs may find it extremely interesting since it was a good look at life at the time, but for someone who is looking for a compelling fictional story, this isn’t it.

Thank you to Netgalley for allowing me to review this novel.

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The Sisters of Versailles: Book Review


the sisters book review
The Sisters of Versailles

Synopsis from Goodreads:

A sumptuous and sensual tale of power, romance, family, and betrayal centered around four sisters and one King. Carefully researched and ornately detailed, The Sisters of Versailles is the first book in an exciting new historical fiction trilogy about King Louis XV, France’s most “well-beloved” monarch, and the women who shared his heart and his bed.

Goodness, but sisters are a thing to fear.

Set against the lavish backdrop of the French Court in the early years of the 18th century, The Sisters of Versailles is the extraordinary tale of the five Nesle sisters: Louise, Pauline, Diane, Hortense, and Marie-Anne, four of whom became mistresses to King Louis XV. Their scandalous story is stranger than fiction but true in every shocking, amusing, and heartbreaking detail.

Court intriguers are beginning to sense that young King Louis XV, after seven years of marriage, is tiring of his Polish wife. The race is on to find a mistress for the royal bed as various factions put their best foot – and women – forward. The King’s scheming ministers push Louise, the eldest of the aristocratic Nesle sisters, into the arms of the King. Over the following decade, the four sisters:sweet, naive Louise; ambitious Pauline; complacent Diane, and cunning Marie Anne, will conspire, betray, suffer, and triumph in a desperate fight for both love and power.

My Thoughts:

This novel was interesting because I do like historical fiction, plus this was a time period with which I wasn’t familiar. It was definitely on the racy side, but I had never read about this king or the court lifestyle. Otherwise, I didn’t find the book that interesting.

While the book wasn’t poorly written and the characters were well imagined, it felt like a lot of other historical novels. There was a ton of backstabbing and bickering among the sisters. I guess it was probably true to the time period and kings with ambitious mistresses, but a person can only read so many of those novels.

So, overall, the only thing that made this stand out was the fact that it took place in the French court with a king that I hadn’t read about before. So, if you are looking for something new this could be the novel for you. The novel, which was told from the view points of several narrators, covered the girls’ lifespans, so I am interested to see what the rest of the trilogy could possibly cover.

I wasn’t impressed with the novel, as a whole, but I did finish it. I am not looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy… in fact, I will probably only read the synopsis to see how the author even makes it a trilogy.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me a copy of the novel to review.

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We Never Asked for Wings: A Beautiful Novel


we never asked for wings book review we never asked for wings book review

Verdict: Must Read for Everyone!

We Never Asked for Wings is the highly anticipated novel by the New York Times Best Selling author of The Language of Flowers. The story, We Never Asked for Wings, takes place around San Francisco, where the single mother of two children had been sharing her childhood apartment with her parents for her entire life. Unfortunately, her parents, who were undocumented when they crossed the border from Mexico into the United States go back to Mexico, to visit a dying relative, when the story begins.

This story touched my heart in so many ways. I loved how Diffenbaugh covered so many topics in one novel and brought them together beautifully. The story is told by two different narrators, the mother and the son. In a way, it’s a coming of age story for each of them, even though they are 18 years apart. The story doesn’t just pull on the readers heart strings. It examines love, loss, politics, and why people treat people the way they do.

This story has something for everyone. I would recommend it to high school students through adults. It’s about first love. It’s about family. It’s about finding love. It’s about life. While the book is fiction, I could picture the novel being based on a true story. It’s probably the true story of too many families. Since it was fiction, it was “white washed,” in a way, so there was always money to borrow in a pinch or those sorts of things. However, it was a book that I couldn’t put down. As a mostly mystery book reader, I was highly impressed with how much I loved this book.

Do yourself a favor and pick it up today!

Thank you to Netgalley for allowing me to review this novel.

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You can purchase the novel wherever books are sold or add it to your TBR list on Goodreads here. Don’t forget to check out Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s website, if you’re interested in more information.

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Bream Gives Me Hiccups: A Book Review


Bream Gives Me Hiccups
Book Review
bream gives me hiccups

Verdict: A must read for humor-lovers!

I won’t lie, I snatched up the chance to read this as soon as possible because, well, Zombieland is my favorite movie ever. I was interested to see what Jesse Eisenberg could put to page. Most telling, I thought, was his thank you page at the end of the novel. They gave me the most insight into his inspiration. I won’t give anything away. Save the end for the end!

As I mentioned in my monthly book review round up, this book is a must read! Bream Gives Me Hiccups is a hilarious mix of short stories, some longer than others. Eisenberg mixes different mediums to tell stories and weave a slight thread about revolution into the story. It’s a little bit out of left field, but it adds some “random” funniness to the story.

Oddly enough, my two favorite stories are written from a child’s point of view first, when he writes about his life through a series of restaurant/life reviews that are very touching and insightful and then from a series of letters written by female freshman in college to her high school college counselor as her mental health starts to unravel.

I’m partial to audiobooks, but I read the ebook of Bream Gives Me Hiccups, which was hilarious. I have to guess that the audiobook would be even more funny, since Audible.com lists the narrators as Jesse Eisenberg, Hallie Eisenberg (his sister), Annapurna Sriram, Erin Darke, and Colin Nissan.

I like that Eisenberg has his sister narrating since in several short stories, an unnamed narrator has his sister email the narrator’s girlfriend, text him early in the morning, and so forth. I’d love to know how much of the unnamed narrator’s sister is based on his real life sister!

Basically, if you’re looking for something fun and quick, let the multi-talented Jesse Eisenberg entertain you! I really can’t tell you how funny this novel is. I wouldn’t compare it to BJ Novak’s short stories since Novak’s stories were almost entirely prose, if you are looking to compare celebrity short stories. I really enjoyed the different styles of writing captured in a single book, plus the wit and humor. It was great to see him take on all of the different characters. With all of the celebrity novels coming out, I’m glad Eisenberg gave us short stories!

You can pick up the novel when it comes out on September 8, 2015!

Thank you to Netgalley for allowing me to review this novel.

Don’t forget that you can go here to check out more of my book reviews, monthly book round ups, and all things literary (like how to save money on audible!). Also, if you love Goodreads, don’t forget to add me as a friend because I’m always looking to see what other people are reading!

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A Window Opens: What Matters in Life


A Window Opens
Book Review
A Window Opens

I find a star system too subjective, so bottom line: I would recommend this novel!

A Window Opens follows the main character, Alice, who is a mother of three small children. At first, she juggles the a part time career and trying to be the best PTA mom, while her husband works full time in New York City as a lawyer. Unfortunately, not long after the novel starts, her husband realizes that he won’t have a future at his law firm, so he decides to strike out on his own.

As the title implies, the novel is about doors closing and windows opening instead. Honestly, I shed a few tears because I read the book at a rough time in my own life, like the main character. The novel is about struggling families and choosing to be right rather than happy before even more family disasters strike.

I really loved Alice, the main character. She is full of passion. She isn’t perfect, but she’s trying. The beginning of the novel captured my attention, yet it did take me a few tries to get going.

Along with the Alice’s adventure in venturing into full time employment and trying to be a good mom, plus take care of her dying father, and strained relationship with her husband, there are lots of sweet and funny moments with her children. Overall, the story really hit home how important family (both biological and friends – the family that you pick) are.

You’ll also love this book if you’re a book-lover because Alice is a book reviewer for a magazine at the beginning of the novel, makes wonderful allusions to all sorts of literary things throughout the story, oh, and her best friend owns a small book store. If you read about their concept of the “No Guilt Book Club,” you’ll be dying for someone you know to start one. I would go!

I’ll leave you with this short line that left me with a few tears and made me go run and hug my husband: And if we’ve learned anything this year, it’s that life is short. You need to be happy.

Don’t forget that you can add me as a friend on Goodreads! Check back for more book reviews and my monthly roundups!

You can pick up A Window Opens on Tuesday, August 25, 2015!

Thanks to Netgalley for allowing me to honestly review this novel.

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The Murderer’s Daughter: An Interesting Novel


The Muderer’s Daughter
Book Review
kell__jkt_all_r1.indd

The Murderer’s Daughter follows the life of a woman who is the daughter of a murderer, as the title implies. However, I think the title is a bit misleading. [If you read it, leave a comment and let me know if you agree!] I don’t want to spoil anything, but the murdering part of her parentage isn’t really what shaped her life. It’s the part that comes before and after it.

The main character, Grace, though, is a tremendously gifted child, who is fortunate enough to land in a situation where her talents are fostered. Her interest in psychology and eventual career allows her to help other victims of trauma, but also creates an interesting twist when her past and present collide.

I did like the narrative style of weaving the story of her past with her present, so it is like the unwrapping of many presents. It is almost two stories in one. It is the story of how she became the woman she is, which is highly guarded, private, and solitary, while also the story of how she is seeking to find out the identity of who is trying to kill her because she doesn’t want to take her story to the police.

I love the main character, although the story borders on far-fetched. There are just too many convenient circumstances to make the book “tidy” and wrap-up nicely for my taste. While there were unexpected twists and turns, I just kept thinking “this is all too convenient” as I read the novel. It was interesting enough to keep me reading to the end, so I could read the conclusion, which was well done, in my opinion. However, in my opinion, I just just kept coming back to the fact that everything wrapped up too well. I don’t know if that was to keep the book a readable length or to keep it simple. But, for a psychological thriller, there was a ton of psychology and not as much thrilling!

Thanks to Netgalley for allowing me to give an honest review of this book!

 

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“You fundamentally misunderstand the concept.”


Days of Awe Review
days of awe book review: back to carolina

Days of Awe is about Isabel Moore, a teacher, mother, and wife. The novel begins with the death of her best friend and fellow teacher, Josie. The novel vacillates between the past and the present. When Iz, as her friends call her, was a child, and her dissolving marriage.

The novel explores how Iz juggles so many life changes at once, how her past shaped her present, and most of all how to cope with grief as she feels like she may be responsible for Josie’s death. Iz sees how easy it is to second guess everything and go back years and trace events that lead to Josie’s death.

As a reader, I was engrossed in the story. I was emotionally invested in the characters, who were well developed. My heart broke when Iz’s heart broke. I got mad at the other teachers when Iz got mad at the other teachers. I was rooting for her. However, the ending left me disappointed.

There was no ending. Not really. Endings to novels definitely don’t need to be neat and clean. I don’t need them wrapped up in a box with a bow. However, when I think about ambiguous endings that are done correctly – an ending where I don’t know what happens to the characters, really – I still feel satisfied. Satisfying ambiguous endings are satisfying because the main character or characters have not only learned something, but they’ve applied it to their life. Even if they learn not to care about what other people think about them, and they exhibit a glimmer of hope in their eyes or they kick their crappy boyfriend to the curb, but now they have to move back home with their batty family. I don’t learn how they rebuild their lives, but I know that they’ve come out better people and something good is going to come out of the bad situations in the the novel.

Days of Awe leaves the reader hanging. I don’t know if Iz’s empowerment is implied, which if it is, it isn’t done well, but honestly when I finished the novel, I wanted to hand it back to the editor and the author with a big fat F in red at the top and write “try again.” Or, maybe to borrow a phrase from my least favorite professor on a literary criticism test that I failed as a baby sophomore, who didn’t belong in the class, I could write at the top “You fundamentally misunderstand the concept.” Ms. Fox and her editors need to try again because they fundamentally misunderstand how to end a story.

It’s really a shame because I couldn’t put down the novel. When I got to the last page, I was stunned that it was the ending.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont: Review

Among the Ten Thousand Things Among Ten Thousand Things

This is a beautiful novel about love, life that ruins love, family, and what’s leftover when life is done. This new release is definitely worth your time, even though there aren’t a whole lot of reviews on it yet. I got an early copy from NetGalley – but early by about two days. So, in my typical fashion, I used my accumulating Audible credits to pick it up because I was loving it, but my new medications have my sleep messed up. I thoroughly enjoyed every second of the book – even when I shed a tear or two. The book, broken into four parts, tells the story in an interesting way. The first part sets up the falling apart of the family. The short, second part, gives the reader a fast glimpse into the end of the family’s lives. How people die. How the kids grow up. Things you don’t expect in the middle of the novel. The third part of the novel, finishes telling how the wife, husband, and two kids get to part two. Mostly told from the point of view of the wife, it’s an beautiful, heart-wrenching look at the thoughts of a woman who has been betrayed and how she decides what she is going to do with that betrayal. While Among the Ten Thousand Things is not a light summer read, it is a beautiful, poignant novel. I don’t know if other readers will appreciate this part like I did, but Simon, the 15 year old son, is a wonderful representation of a teenage boy. He reminded me so much of my moody, angry, teenage brother with a bad attitude! It made me laugh a lot. The novel reminded me of the humanity in all of us. Parents are people. Kids see more than we know. And kids turn into adults who will perpetuate the cycle. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this novel for review. All opinions are my own.

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