Me for You, by Lolly Winston (Review)

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Me for You
by Lolly Winston

Genre: Fiction, Romance

Length: 320 Pages

Release date: March 12, 019

Publisher: Gallery Books

Synopsis: 

From the New York Times bestselling author of Good Grief comes a richly poignant and stirring story that asks: How soon is too soon to fall in love again?

The last thing Rudy expected was to wake up one Saturday morning, a widow at fifty-four years old. Now, ten months after the untimely death of his beloved wife, he’s still not sure how to move on from the defining tragedy of his life—but his new job is helping. After being downsized from his finance position, Rudy turned to his first love: the piano. Some people might be embarrassed to work as the piano player at Nordstrom, but for Rudy, there’s joy in bringing a little music into the world. And it doesn’t hurt that Sasha, the Hungarian men’s watch clerk who is finally divorcing her no-good husband, finds time to join him at the bench every now and then.

Just when Rudy and Sasha’s relationship begins to deepen, the police come to the store with an update about Rudy’s wife’s untimely death—a coworker has confessed to her murder—but Rudy’s actions are suspicious enough to warrant a second look at him, too. With Sasha’s husband suddenly reappearing, and Rudy’s daughter confronting her own marital problems, suddenly life becomes more complicated than Rudy and Sasha could have imagined.

With Winston’s trademark humor and sweetness that will appeal to readers of Jennifer Weiner and Fredrik Backman but is uniquely her own, Lolly Winston delivers a heartfelt and realistic portrait of loss and grief, hope and forgiveness, and two imperfect people coming together to create a perfect love story.

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I received a free copy of this novel from Booksparks in my role as a Winter Reading Challenge ambassador. All opinions are my own. 

Me for You was in the 2.5 star range for me. There was a lot of potential in the story and I loved the concept, but something about the execution just never really grabbed me. The book opens with Rudy waking up in bed with his wife, who has died in her sleep. Most of the story then takes place almost a year later, after the initial shock of the loss has faded as Rudy navigates a blooming romance with Sasha, an acquaintance from work.

In what I can only assume is an attempt to add some excitement to the story, Winston introduces a new plot line: the murder confession alluded to in the blurb. This serves to further traumatize Rudy as the one year anniversary of his wife’s death approaches. Rudy finds himself in the hospital as his grief and depression leave him unable to function. Given the difficult nature of the first anniversary of a death, this twist didn’t feel necessary to contribute to Rudy’s mental state and move the story along. In retrospect, it felt out of place and forced, especially given later revelations in the story.

The romance angle between Sasha and Rudy was endearing and it was one of the redeeming qualities of this book for me. Sasha, an immigrant who has lost her child and been abandoned by her husband, could easily fill a simple “damsel in distress role,” but instead she becomes Rudy’s rock as he sinks into an overpowering depression.

Me for You may be a good choice for fans of authors such as Phaedra Patrick. It  touches on some heavy topics, but overall feels like a light and fluffy read.

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Thank you for reading! What’s your favorite novel with an older protagonist? Let me know in the comments!

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Review- The Sisters Hemingway, by Annie England Noblin

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The Sisters Hemingway
by Annie England Noblin

Genre: Fiction

Length: 384 Pages

Release date: February 12, 2019

Publisher: Wililam Morrow

Synopsis: 

From the author of Sit! Stay! Speak! comes the heartwarming story of three sisters who reunite after their beloved aunt’s death to repair their fractured relationships.

The Sisters Hemingway: they couldn’t be more different…or more alike. 

The Sisters Hemingway were coming back to Cold River…

Hadley, the poised, polished wife of a Senator

Pfeiffer, the successful New York book editor

Martha, who skyrocketed to Nashville stardom

They each have a secret…a marriage on the rocks, a job lost, a stint in rehab…and they haven’t been together in years.

Returning for the funeral of the aunt who raised them, the sisters must stay together in their childhood home, faced with a puzzle that may affect all their futures. As they learn the truth of what happened to their mother and youngest sister, and rekindle the bonds they had as children, bonds that had once seemed broken. With the help of neighbors, friends, love interests old and new—and one endearing and determined basset hound, the Sisters Hemingway learn that the happiness that has appeared so elusive may be right here at home, just waiting to be claimed.

rating

four

My thanks to William Morrow for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by the publisher. 

The Sisters Hemingway is the story of three sisters as they return to their hometown for the funeral of the aunt who raised them. Hadley, Pfeiffer, and Martha have grown distant from one another during adulthood, as their individual problems dominated their lives. They each, with varying degrees of success, have wanted to maintain the polished veneer of their lives and hide their failures.

Martha, a country music starlet, has had far more success in music than she has in hiding her personal problems. Hadley, a senator’s wife, and Pfeiffer, an editor for a New York city publisher, are comparatively somewhat of a mystery to one another. As the story unfolds, the sisters slowly reveal their own secrets as they uncover a mystery in their deceased aunt’s old farmhouse.

The Sisters Hemingway is richly atmospheric, and the small town southern setting provides a distinct flavor to every scene, from sprawling farmlands to nosy neighbors. It’s very well paced, and the mystery will keep readers obsessively turning the pages. The relationships between the sisters were a huge highlight of the novel; watching these women who’ve grown so far apart rediscover sisterly affection made for a gratifying and heartwarming read.

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Thanks so much for reading! What’s your favorite novel you’ve read which focused on relationships between sisters? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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Review – Truly Madly Guilty, by Liane Moriarty

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Truly Madly Guilty 
by Liane Moriarty

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Length: 415 Pages

Release date: July 26, 2016

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Synopsis: 

Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong?

Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other.

Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite.

Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?

In Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty takes on the foundations of our lives: marriage, sex, parenthood, and friendship. She shows how guilt can expose the fault lines in the most seemingly strong relationships, how what we don’t say can be more powerful than what we do, and how sometimes it is the most innocent of moments that can do the greatest harm.

rating

three

This was my second Liane Moriarty book, and perhaps Big Little Lies was simply too tough an act to follow. There were a lot of similarities between the two books, but I think Truly Madly Guilty‘s fatal flaw is in the pacing. The whole book hinges on what happened one evening at a neighborhood barbecue; Moriarty leaves the reader in the dark about what this horrific incident was, and in the end, the buildup feels truly out of proportion to the reveal. Honestly, 100 pages could have been cut from this book and I don’t think it would have suffered for it.

That being said, there was a lot to like in this book. Moriarty tackles a variety of social issues, from mental health to gender issues and the intersection between them. Several characters in Truly Madly Deeply suffer from mental health issues throughout the course of the story; Moriarty does a good job of illustrating how these tend to be overlooked in men, or worse, viewed as a sign of weakness.

…The terrible thought occurred to her that perhaps she’d always unconsciously believed that because Sam didn’t cry, he therefore didn’t feel, or he felt less, not as profoundly or deeply as she did. Her focus had always been on how his actions affected her feelings, as if his role was to do things for her, to her, and all that mattered was her emotional response to him, as if a “man” were a product or service, and she’d finally chosen the right brand to get the right response. Was it possible she’d never seen or truly loved him the way he deserved to be loved? As a person? An ordinary, flawed, feeling person?

There is also a character who is former sex worker; she is a former stripper and not ashamed of her past, but she is grappling with the complicated emotions that come from feeling that she’s done nothing wrong while still worrying about how her past may reflect on her child in a posh new school environment.

Moriarty digs deeply into the complicated psychology of many of her characters, and that’s where she truly shines as an author. Even the grumpy old neighbor from across the street gets a chapter, and while it moves the plot forward, its real purpose is to give us a chance to empathize with a character who felt irredeemable and one-dimensional prior to that moment. He doesn’t suddenly become a knight in shining armor, but he becomes painfully human.

The two main female characters, Erika and Clementine, both have moments where they are intensely unlikable. Erika is uptight and judgmental; Clementine is resentful of a sense of obligation to be friends with Erika, who has no other friends. They are sometimes selfish and unkind. At the same time, they are written as women with hopes and dreams and loads of love in their hearts, and it’s never hard to empathize with them. I like that Moriarty is able to write these complex, flawed women in a way that feels raw and genuine. It’s easy to finish a Moriarty book feeling like you’ve met a new friend, and it’s terribly satisfying to spend time in these women’s heads.

There is no special protection when you cross that invisible line from your ordinary life to that parallel world where tragedies happen. It happens just like this. You don’t become someone else. You’re still exactly the same. Everything around you still smells and looks and feels exactly the same.

Purchase links

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Coming soon from Liane Moriarty…

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Nine Perfect Strangers 

Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever? In Liane Moriarty’s latest page-turner, nine perfect strangers are about to find out…

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?

It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question. ”

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