Book Review | All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

all we ever wanted

Book Description:

Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton.

Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.

Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenaged girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.

At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.

In an age where pictures can be shared in seconds via social media and texting, and long-term repercussions are not considered, this story takes a very realistic scenario and plays it out with such fast-pace that it pulls you in and challenges everything you believe.  “White privilege” and minority stereotypes were addressed in this story and it was extremely well written, without being forceful toward a certain agenda.  Thankfully fiction stayed as fiction.

This story really made me feel all kinds of emotions: compassion, sympathy, anger, sadness, happiness, disgust. I loved the writing, as it was so incredibly vivid.  The characters were definitely realistic, even the teenage viewpoints and I felt like they weren’t forced.  The “uppity” status exemplified by Nina’s husband was sadly believable as well, and the conversations had between multiple parties flowed.

I really enjoyed the novel, didn’t mind thinking about the worst case scenario when it comes to consequences and actually think this book might be extremely relevant for mothers, fathers, and teenage children to read together to cause discussion.  I would definitely read another book by the same author anytime, and enjoyed this book, despite the raw scenes. It was refreshing to read something that was mature about a topic as severe as this one.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through Random House Publishing Group and NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and I appreciate the opportunity to receive an advanced reader copy to do so. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Book Review | The Good Sister by Jess Ryder

the good sister

Official Book Description:

“Two sisters. One secret… A lie that could destroy them both.

When her father dies, Josie is devastated to uncover he led a secret life: another house, another family and a half-sister called Valentina.

Both with red hair and icy blue eyes, Josie and Valentina could be mistaken for twins. But the similarities end there…

Josie – Sweet, reserved, jealous, thief.
Valentina – Care-free, confident, dangerous, liar.

Two sisters. One survivor.

A nail-bitingly tense and unputdownable read that will keep you turning pages into the night. Perfect for fans of Gone GirlThe Girl on the Train and Sister Sister.”

I’m not sure about “gripped”, but this book definitely took me down roads I wasn’t ready to go down.  The story opened up with a man named Jerry, dying in a motorcycle accident, after refusing to respond to text messages that seem to be incriminating him in some way.  As a result, his wife Helen and her daughter Josie are alerted to his death and they start the process of grief and moving on.  Josie’s father, Jerry, was a Viking who passed down to her his heritage and philosophy, and it is evident in her appearance and way of thinking.

When Jerry passes, Josie goes to his second residence to clean it up and get it ready to sell.  It’s there that she begins to realize who her father really was.  There is a sister named Valentina who is five days older than she, and another mother she’s never met, and all of a sudden, her father’s time spent away from home begins to take shape.  The betrayal, questions and heartache are all left wanting, as Jerry isn’t there to fill in the blanks.

As the half sisters begin to spend more time with each other, they begin to learn about each other and it’s hard not to compare how one of them was given much, while the other had to struggle through life.  The built up animosity begins to show, and sadly, the lines begin to blur between what is acceptable and what isn’t.

Sidenote: At the beginning of each chapter is a “truth” about Viking morals and values, and it prefaces what is about to happen.  These are very contradictory to a healthy functioning family, and seems to give Jerry a pass at not being the best father.

The story shifts each chapter between Josie and Valentina, and even toward the end, it’s hard to tell which is which, so that may be a bit confusing, but it does eventually line up.  And although I enjoyed the suspense of the mothers finding out, the details learned by the sisters, and the antics they go through, I couldn’t help but find myself yelling at one of the sisters in many of the situations, because she seems to allow herself to be led down paths she knows aren’t safe.  What truly is the intention of the “bad” sister?  And which sister is which?  The ending is bizarre, but leaves lingering questions.  However, I read it in less than a week, so maybe it did grip me.

Nature of book warning: graphic sex scene and memories of a rape

Blogger note: I read 50% of this book, and listened to the other half through Amazon Audible.  I loved the narrator, Annette Chown, as she read from Josie’s and Valentina’s perspectives.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bookouture and NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and I appreciate the opportunity to receive an advanced reader copy to do so. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Book Review | Kill the Silence: A Survivor’s Life Reclaimed by Monika Korra

Kill the Silence cover

Wow, just wow!  This book is an intense journey through a painful experience.  It walked me down a path that led to shock, heartache, fear, and eventually hope.  Monika Korra writes from her own perspective as a young woman who had grown up in Norway and moved to Texas for college, training and life in America.  One night after leaving a party with friends, she is abducted right off of the road and taken into a big black SUV by three men who repeatedly sexually assault her and then toss her from the vehicle when they are done with her.  Leaving behind a cell phone and other items that allowed her captors to be found, she embarks on a journey to find herself again, the strength she is so used to depending on for her sport, and builds stronger relationships with those friends and family members who were there for her post-trauma.  Her story evolves to the point where she refuses to stay a victim.

Caution: The details of her rape are raw and descriptive, but I feel it is necessary due to her processing the event and gaining strength from it.  If you are a sensitive reader, be advised.  The story moves past the event rather quickly to the part of her addressing the situation with family, the school, and law enforcement.

This was a great read, rather long with incredible detail, but filled with hope and insights on how to seek the Lord for strength and move past something that could victimize you for the rest of your life.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Blogging for Books book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”