The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti

Sometimes you read a book that feels completely separate from and relevant to your life at once. The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti is that novel for me. This father-daughter story stars the gun-toting Samuel Hawley and his daughter, steel-toe boot-wearing Loo. Despite their rough exteriors, the duo charmed me.

Loo and her father have been on their own for as long as she can remember, her mother gone before she could walk. Moving from motel to motel, they have never stayed in one place for long. One day though, Sam decides that Loo deserves a “normal” childhood and takes her to Olympus, Massachusetts, the town where Loo’s mother grew up. As Loo gets older, she learns more about her father’s dark past (a life on the run) and she’s not sure how to reconcile this information with the father she knows and loves.

Throughout the book, there are twelve chapters that describe the stories behind each of Sam’s bullet wounds. Sam is a character who has done bad (illegal) things, but does that make him a bad person? The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley made me stop and think.

I really enjoyed the book and definitely recommend it!

 

 

Standout quotes: 

“’But the past is like a shadow, always trying to catch up.’” 

“…Never quite understanding the reasons but feeling the cause must be some personal defect, some missing part of herself that the others recognized…” 

“Changing where you were could change how much you mattered.”

“Hawley took her face into his hands and kissed her forehead, her eyes and then her lips, slow and grateful and brimming with the hundreds of ways he wanted to touch her.”

“My God, Loo thought, these men do it to all of us.”

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Monsters: A Love Story by Liz Kay

monsters-a-love-story-by-liz-kayAre you looking for a romantic comedy with some sharp edges? Check out Monsters: A Love Story by Liz Kay for a book filled with sarcasm, romance, and quite a bit of swearing.

Stacey Lane is a poet, a widow, and a mother. When her husband Michael died, she quickly begins to feel like she’s losing control and focus. The story begins when her book of poetry is chosen by an A-list Hollywood actor Tommy DeMarco to be made into a film. From the first time they meet, a romantic tension builds between them and is filled with snarky banter and physical connections. Before long, these feelings grow into something neither of them knows how to handle.

Throughout the book, which spans years as the movie goes through production and it’s release, everything seemed to fall into place too perfectly. It’s not only the positive things; the bad things seemed to fit too easily into place as well. Unfortunately, the story felt unrealistic and slightly predictable, but sometimes that’s what makes a light story enjoyable in it’s own way.

I found it strange that at times Stacey’s character would say things that implied she’s a feminist fighting off unrealistic expectations of women, but then her actions would prove to be the opposite. Regardless of her stance, the character felt inconsistent. On the plus side, I thought Stacey’s son Stevie was very sweet!

Monsters: A Love Story is a light read (ideal for a vacation), however it wasn’t one that would make the list of my favorite reads.

 

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.

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.”

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. SchwabI’ve been in the mood to read a fantasy book for a while now and I’m happy to have started with A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab.

In this story, there isn’t only one London, but instead there’s four. First there’s Grey London, a dull and plain version of the city without magic. Next there’s Red London, a city filled with vibrant life, color, and magic. White London is fraught with a ruthless magical war. Lastly, there’s Black London, a place whose doors have closed forever.

Kell is one of the last and only magicians who can travel between the worlds and he serves as a messenger for and member of the royalty of Red London. Unbeknownst to the King and Queen, Kell secretly (and illegally) smuggles items from each of the worlds back into his own. When he accidentally smuggles an artifact from Black London that is dangerously powerful, he realizes that he’s in huge trouble. As Kell does his best to dispose of the stone, he meets Lila Bard, a bold and incredibly capable thief, who joins him on this adventure.

A Darker Shade of MagicLondon is one of my favorite cities in the world and I was excited to see it brought to life in multiple different worlds. I thought that Schwab did a wonderful job creating extremely interesting and likable characters. I especially admired Kell’s honor and the Lila’s bravery throughout the story.

I really enjoyed this fast-paced adventure and am already looking forward to opening up the next book in the series, A Gathering of Shadows.

Untethered by Julie Lawson Timmer

Untethered by Julie Lawson TimmerAre families made up of the people we’re related to by blood or the people that we choose to be with? Untethered by Julie Lawson Timmer shines a light on this issue by highlighting both “first families” and “blended families” along with the unspoken rules that come with being a guardian, but not a biological parent.

When Charlotte’s husband dies, she quickly realizes that she doesn’t have custody of her beloved stepdaughter, Allie. Charlotte and Allie have always had a good relationship, but it’s thrown for a loop without the connecting link of Bradley. As they grieve, they must face the emergence of Allie’s flaky biological mother and Allie begins to act out for the first time in her life. The only person keeping Allie balanced is Morgan, the young girl she tutors. When Morgan faces trouble, Charlotte and Allie are brought together to help her on a wild journey.

UntetheredWhile reading I noticed that there are long stretches of monologue, especially from Charlotte, which was a bit unusual compared to other books I’ve read lately. Although the story was both touching and thought provoking, I would have liked to feel a stronger sense of urgency. Don’t get me wrong though, I enjoyed this book.

Overall, Untethered is a well-written story about the family we’re born into and the family we choose.

Results May Vary by Bethany Chase

Results May Vary by Bethany ChaseWhat would you do if everything you based your life on turned out to be a lie? This is the struggle that Caroline goes through in Results May Vary by Bethany Chase.

For Caroline Hammond, almost everything has gone according to plan including a beautiful home in Massachusetts, marrying her high school sweetheart, and working at an art museum. That is, until she discovers that her husband has been having an affair with a man. This forces her to reconsider everything she had once believed to be true and she must decide whether to save her marriage or move forward on her own. The story discusses the idea of what people hide about themselves, even from the ones they love most.

Besides the complex relationships, I really appreciated the rich descriptions of the scenic Massachusetts countryside setting so I may just have to book a trip out there.

On the other hand, there were times when I felt that the dialogue was a little bit forced and overly dramatic, but I liked the characters and the flow of their relationships.

Results May VaryBlurbs from letters were at the beginning of each chapter, which was a nice thoughtful touch. Results May Vary has a light tone, perfect for summer, and was a quick read for me.

A few of the quotes that stood out to me include:

“Before we were married, people used to regularly mistake us for siblings on a regular basis. I used to like it. Now, even my own face was a reminder of his betrayal.” 

“How silly of me to have thought that I’d reached the border of my heartbreak; just look how much more room there was out here.”

“The cruelty of living could steal your breaths sometimes,”