The Guineveres by Sarah Domet

the guineveresFour girls, all named Guinevere, find themselves at The Sisters of the Supreme Adoration convent and quickly become an inseparable group. The Guineveres by Sarah Domet shares their story as the girls face the hardships of living in the convent, abandoned by their parents, and become one another’s family.

The nuns of the convent raise the girls and teach them to have faith and live obedient lives. After years of waiting, they grow weary and long for freedom so when a group of injured soldiers are brought to the convent to heal, The Guineveres see these boys as their way out. In other words, they become obsessed with the soldiers.

I thought it was interesting that at times throughout the book, the girls were described as a unit, as The Guineveres, rather than as each individual member of the group. Throughout the story we learn each of their heartbreaking revival stories and can begin to understand the circumstances that led them to their places in the convent.

the guineveres by sarah dometWhile the pace of the book quickened towards the end, the story didn’t really come to life for me as much as I would have liked.

Family Tree by Susan Wiggs

family treeTwo words: maple syrup. Not only is Family Tree by Susan Wiggs filled with the delicacy, I also think it’s a good representation of this sweet feel-good story. Family and friends, love and heartbreak, forgiveness and struggle, these are all themes within the story along with some incredibly decadent descriptions of food.

When the walls of Annie Rush’s well-constructed life (charming husband, dream job as a producer for a hit cooking TV show, beautiful LA house) come falling down, she retreats to her childhood home of Switchback, Vermont. Returning to her family, and seeing her long lost high school sweetheart so many years later, Annie must find herself again after losing so much. The book moves between scenes of her childhood, teen years, and adult life as we’re navigated through her experiences.

The characters were easy to like, especially Annie’s tell-it-how-she-sees-it nature. The Vermont setting is what differentiated this book in my mind from other easy-going reads. Wonderful descriptions of orange-hued fall leaves, softly falling snow, and maples trees pulled me into the story and left me thinking that it might be time to book a trip to New England.

Family Tree by Susan WiggsFamily Tree is a good chick-lit read, one that’s easy to fall into, with a satisfying ending.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

the-song-of-achillesIf you’re looking for a story filled with heroes, gods, passion, bravery, and a whole lot of heart, look no further than The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. A retelling of the legend of Achilles and the Trojan War, this book is quick-paced and easy to get drawn into.

When our narrator, prince Patroclus, is a young child he is exiled from his home. By a twist of fate, he winds up at the court of Achilles’ father King Peleus and a strong bond forms between the boys. I was really touched by their relationship, an incredibly honest and deeply loyal one. They grow up together and before long they are called to the Trojan War and with it, risk losing everything important to them.

I’m not very familiar with Greek mythology (I paused many times to look up various Greek gods and historical figures) so I really enjoyed learning more. The story didn’t just dive into Greek mythology and history though. It also shared insight into the culture and motives of the Greek people, which I found fascinating.

the-song-of-achilles-by-madeline-millerI try to keep my reviews spoiler-free and I don’t want to give anything away here, but I felt completely emotional at the end of the story. To be honest, I felt a little emotional throughout the entire book! The story really got to me.

I definitely recommend The Song of Achilles!

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

imageIncredibly powerful and moving, Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult is full of honesty and empathy.

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse with 20 years of experience. When Ruth begins a routine check-up of a newborn baby, she’s quickly reassigned cases. The parents are a white supremacist couple and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, on their case. Ruth is told to stay away from the child, however when the team is short staffed she is the only one left to care for him when he goes into cardiac distress. Ruth is left with the impossible decision of whether to obey orders or intervene…

Ruth is charged with a serious crime and we are brought along for the court case that ensues. Small Great Things is told from the perspectives of Ruth, Turk (the white supremacist father of the baby), and Kennedy (Ruth’s lawyer). It was both fascinating (and at times horrifying) to get into the heads of these 3 characters.

I was extremely impressed by Picoult’s ability to make these hard and uncomfortable topics approachable through her writing. To me, this is a book that everyone should read.

small great things It was also really interesting to read about Picoult’s research for the story and motivation for writing this book. I definitely recommend reading her author’s note.

Top quotes:

“It just goes to show you: every baby is born beautiful. It’s what we project on them that makes them ugly.”

“…I knew that sometimes when people spoke, it wasn’t because they had something important to say. It was because they had a powerful need for someone to listen.”

“She is hunched over in her seat in the gallery, a human question mark, as if her whole body is asking why this happened to us.”

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

The Couple Next DoorI’ve been looking for a quick mystery novel that isn’t too dark or gory; The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena was just the book I was in the mood for.

Marco and Anne Conti, new to parenthood, go to a dinner party at the house next door and leave their infant baby behind with a baby monitor. During the span of the party an awful crime is committed and as the story progresses, readers learn exactly what happened that night and what role everyone played, however unexpected.

What interested me the most in this book was the way that people can spiral out of control and dig themselves into a deeper and deeper hole in an effort to save their own skin. Situations in this story drive people to commit acts they never thought they were capable of.

Each chapter flowed smoothly into the next, the whole story only spanning a week or so. The book is told in third person from the perspectives of many different characters. The narrator seemed very removed from the characters and I noticed that each of the characters’ names were used a lot, almost so much so that it started to distract me. This style of writing isn’t a favorite of mine, but I thought it worked for this book.

The Couple Next DoorFor me, The Couple Next Door is a plot driven novel, rather than character driven, and a quick one-time read.

Here’s a quote I marked from the book:

“She knows how judgmental mothers are, how good it feels to sit in judgment of someone else.”

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in MoscowA beautiful piece of literature, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is a book that deserves to be savored line by line. Towle’s first book, Rules of Civility, is a favorite historical fiction of mine so I’d been anticipating his next book for years and it arrived in the form of A Gentleman in Moscow.

In 1922, The Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow, Russia by the Bolshevik tribunal. He lives in a small cramped room in the attic and is forbidden from stepping foot outside the hotel. Although the story is told from within the walls of the hotel (for the most part) it’s not a small story. A Gentleman in Moscow spans over 4 decades of Russian history.

I couldn’t help but be charmed by this novel and the Count. Witty and extremely perceptive, he is the ultimate surveyor of the details in life. Throughout the story, we’re introduced to the various personalities of the people who live and/or work within the hotel. This includes Sofia, the child who ends up on the Count’s doorstep (or in this case, the hotel lobby). The interactions between these characters are fantastic dialogue. I was intrigued by the charming and the quirky characters alike, and was excited to see where the various personalities met.

For me, this wasn’t a quick read. I took my time and enjoyed the smaller details that eventually build up to the final scenes of the story when the Count’s life changes forever.

A Gentleman in MoscowI absolutely recommend A Gentleman in Moscow and hope that you enjoy it as much as I did! Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book so that you can get a taste of the story for yourself:

“’A king fortifies himself with a castle,’ observed the Count, ‘a gentleman with a desk.’”

“But imagining what might happen if one’s circumstances were different was the only sure way to madness.” 

“But time and tide wait for no man.”

“That sense of loss is exactly what we must anticipate, prepare for, and cherish to the last of our days; for it is only heartbreak that refutes all that is ephemeral in love.”

“…the thousand-layered complications of their hearts.”

“For what matters in life is not whether we receive a round of applause; what matters is whether we have the courage to venture forth despite the uncertainty of acclaim.”

Still Life by Louise Penny

still-lifeStill Life by Louise Penny is one of the books that has been waiting on my shelf for months and months. I finally had a chance to pick up this mystery detective novel and I’m happy that I did.

The story begins in the small town of Three Pines near Montreal when a well-liked woman is found dead in the woods. With an arrow wound on her chest, there’s no denying that her death wasn’t an accident…

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is the lead detective investigating the murder and I was impressed by his intelligence and perceptiveness. As many great detectives do, Gamache has the uncanny knack for finding the hidden pieces of the puzzle and fitting them together. He brings his team to the small town of Three Pines to get to the bottom of what happened.

Still Life is well written and kept me curious throughout the story. I will definitely read more of Louise Penny’s books!

My favorite quote from the book:

“Oscar Wilde said that conscience and cowardice are the same thing. What stops us from doing horrible things isn’t our conscience, but the fear of getting caught.”