I received this book from The Next Best Book Club in exchange for an honest review.

Can one short story make or break a book? If the book in question is What If We Were Somewhere Else then my answer would be yes, the guilty story being “The Human,” but we’ll get to that later. But if I’m being honest it wasn’t just “The Human” that got me (though it was my breaking point), very few of the stories in Fox’s collection wowed me. There were a few stories I really enjoyed but honestly this book was forgettable and difficult to finish.

What If We Were Somewhere Else follows seven co-workers at an office who are laid off, showing their lives, their families, what got them to the office and what happens when they’re unemployed. The stories circles with these characters, none of whom are particularly interesting and many of whom frankly suck. That isn’t usually an issue for me when reading, I understand the need for unlikeable protagonists but a whole collection of them can be a bit much. The book has a high rating and favourable reviews elsewhere so I recognize I’m in the minority for this one, I just didn’t get it and it clearly wasn’t meant for me.

You can read my thoughts on each of the short stories below: Continue reading

CW: Sexual assault.

I received this book from The Next Best Book Club in exchange for an honest review.

“Love…was sometimes a decision you made, a promise to yourself to see only the best in a person, in spite of what else might be lurking,” (Schweighardt 46).

Estela Hopper, the illegitimate child of Jack Hopper, has been studying opera by an esteemed instructor in her home of Manaus, Brazil for most of her life. When she is offered a chance to work at the Metropolitan Opera in New York her instructor urges her to go, even though she will be working in the sewing room, and to convince the managers that a mixed-race immigrant has what it takes to be a great performer. She leaves Brazil with her cousin Jojo and they both experience the challenges and beauty that New York has to offer. But as they settle into their lives truths are revealed  and things change for Jojo and Estela, leading them into vastly different areas and paths. They deal with their own difficulties as they each continue hoping for success in a city so far from their home. Continue reading

I received this book from The Next Best Book Club in exchange for an honest review.

“I loved watching the mist dissipate to reveal the world more with every sunrise. I loved seeing the sky and the river shift from black to gold. I loved the sight of the assai palms, standing along the river bank like Narcissus, falling in love with their own reflections. I loved the squirrel monkeys chattering in the trees, the parrots screaming overhead, the pink river dolphins, the settlements here and there with boats tied to the trees and small houses up on stilts,” (Schweighardt 200).

Jack Hopper is back in Hoboken, New Jersey after his traumatic stint with death after trying his hand at rubber tapping in South America. Nursed back to health by his childhood friend Nora Sweeney their relationship shifts and changes as new struggles form around them. From the beginnings of World War I, the Spanish Flu, and the secrets Jack keeps close to his heart that he can’t bear to make public. Jack and Nora end up in the rainforests of South America, offering a glimpse into Jack’s past and closure for both of them that has been years coming. Continue reading

Hello everyone, I’m very happy to welcome Joan Schweighardt to the blog today! Joan is the author of nine novels which include two children’s books, two memoirs, and various magazine articles and is a winner of the Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” award, ForeWord Magazine’s “Best Fiction of the Year,” and a Borders “Top Ten Read to Me.” Her most recent work is the Rivers Trilogy, a historical fiction series (that I am thoroughly enjoying I might add) that spans between 1908 to 1929 moving between the New York metro area and South America. The series follows two different groups of people, the first two books following Irish American brothers as they try to make their riches in South America by rubber tapping, the journey and adjustment home, and the third follows a young woman who travels from Brazil to New York in hopes of finding success in the opera world.

I am so lucky to have Joan on the blog today where she tells me what she found about the history or rubber tapping so interesting, how her travels helped her writing, what she’s working on next, and much more!

4010200949393632._SX318_SY475_55742951._SY475_ Continue reading

I received this book from The Next Best Book Club in exchange for an honest review.

“Wild rubber trees don’t grow in groves; they are spread throughout forests thick with vegetation and fraught with danger. Nor can trees be tapped throughout the year.
Still, people rushed to the jungle to make their fortune in rubber,” (Schweighardt 1).

After their mother’s psychic gives her the message that her departed husband wants his sons to go on an adventure, Jack and Baxter Hopper jump at the chance. They aren’t one for psychics but they’ll take any excuse they can to leave their jobs in Hoboken, New Jersey and travel to the South American rainforest where they hope to make their fortune tapping rubber trees. But their adventure takes a sharp turn once they arrive in South America and begin to experience not only the extreme hunger, floods, and deadly wildlife that lurk outside their tent but the psychological challenges they have no way of preparing for. Continue reading

I received this book from The Next Best Book Club in exchange for an honest review.

I was first brought in to Beth Gilstrap’s Deadheading and Other Stories from it’s gorgeous cover, what kept me going was the heartachingly stories inside. As the back of the book tells, these stories are deeply entrenched in the South. The stories are hot with tension, slow with sadness, and ready to smack you into reality right as you’ve settled in. The characters are so incredibly real and it was so easy to love and care for them in such short passages. Gilstrap’s collection is short, to the point, and filled with unforgettable stories I know I’ll turn back too.

You can read my thoughts on each story below: Continue reading

I received this book from The Next Best Book Club in exchange for an honest review.

When going into Those Fantastic Lives: and Other Strange Stories, it’s important to focus on the strange part of the title. I mean that in the best way possible, I’ve long been a lover of strange stories but have never read an anthology comprised of only strange stories. Fantasy and sci-fi, yes, horror sure but never strange. I ignored the “strange” when I began this collection, focusing instead on the “fantastic lives” bit, and while the characters in these stories definitely have some fantastic lives, I found myself thrown off my the strange. So know that this collection of stories is strange and heavily rooted in magical realism and you’ll be fine!

That being said, they’re beautiful stories. They’re quite short so I breezed through this collection much faster than I thought I would, if anything I enjoyed some of these stories so much that the brevity of them just made me want some of these plots to be a little more stretched out. The stories are all so unique and wonderful to get lost in, ranging from love to heartache, Sides knows how to get his reader’s emotional. The main theme of the collection seems to be love, it’s so powerfully felt in many of the stories, it’s easy to feel how deeply Sides cares for these stories and it was wonderful to feel as a reader. Those Fantastic Lives: and Other Strange Stories is a fantastic collection with stories that stick, that make the reader’s feel and really care for the characters even though their stories are small.

You can read my thoughts on each of the stories in the collection below: Continue reading

I received this book from The Next Best Book Club in exchange for an honest review.

“My stalker is smart, just like I would be. He or she finds the shadows. Shows up when I’m wasted or popped too many little blue pills. So I’ll be far enough away from reality to believe they are real…I know this because that is what I would do,” (Goldberg 7).

Depressed, alcoholic, and self-medicating thirty-year-old Lexi Mazur doesn’t have a lot going for her, especially when her boyfriend Steve dumps her. But she manages to find happiness in her reality TV shows, especially Socialites, becoming obsessed with it’s star Magnolia Artois. Lexi follows her on social media and knows she and Magnolia would be friends and that she would be a good addition to the show. And Magnolia posts so often, it isn’t hard to figure out where she’s going to be and to just happen to be in the same spot. It’s how she won over Steve and her other ex Jeremy, manipulating things in her favour is easy for Lexi, stalking even easier. But now Lexi’s feeling watched, or is it just the pills making her paranoid? When notes and threatening phone calls are coming to Lexi’s apartment she wonders who her stalker is, could it be Magnolia afraid of losing the spotlight? Her only friend Pria who Lexi thinks has an unhealthy relationship with her? Lexi will have to use her own stalking skills to find out who her stalker is, but could her stalker be even better than she is? Continue reading

“He didn’t see what she did, and she could never really tell him what was really wrong – that it had all been a mistake: She didn’t know how to be a mother; why had that ever seemed like a good idea?” (Stage 4).

Seven-year-old Hanna loves her Daddy. He understands her better than anyone and he is her most special person. She imagines a life where just her and Daddy get to live happily each day, but Mommy stands in the way, and Hanna thinks it’s time for her to leave. Suzette loves her mute daughter, despite Hanna acting out only for her to see, despite homeschooling her for years after she is expelled from every school she and her husband try to enroll her in. But Suzette has noticed a surprisingly violent tone to Hanna’s mischief, and already battling an autoimmune disease, she wonders how much longer she can handle her daughter. Continue reading

I received this book from The Next Best Book Club in exchange for an honest review.

“Death was all around us, constantly. Why was it so easy to ignore? Why didn’t people go mad, everyone terrified and helpless, blind to when or how death would visit them, or what world stood beyond the threshold? Were we dust, or were we immortal? Expendable or sacred? Fertilizer, or divine?” (Doyle 212).

Life isn’t going to well for Sandy Kurtz. He’s in his thirties and working at Lowe’s, his wife doesn’t love him anymore and now they have a baby coming, oh and Sandy’s also a werewolf. Six months ago after leaving his apartment after an argument with his wife and getting into a strange accident, Sandy finds that every full moon he now turns into a fearsome, carnivorous wolfman. But he’s sure he can handle it, he keeps finding ways to get his wife out of the house during the full moon, and he tries to stick to the forested areas where there are lots of dear. But will it be enough? Can Sandy continue to keep the wolfman at bay, and what will happen when the baby’s born? Continue reading