2021 Book # 53 – Brass by Xhenet Aliu

Title: Brass
Author: Xhenet Aliu
Date finished: 7/15/21
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: January 23, 2018
Pages in book: 306
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

A waitress at the Betsy Ross Diner, Elsie hopes her nickel-and-dime tips will add up to a new life. Then she meets Bashkim, who is at once both worldly and naïve, a married man who left Albania to chase his dreams—and wound up working as a line cook in Waterbury, Connecticut. Back when the brass mills were still open, this bustling factory town drew one wave of immigrants after another. Now it’s the place they can’t seem to leave. Elsie, herself the granddaughter of Lithuanian immigrants, falls in love quickly, but when she learns that she’s pregnant, Elsie can’t help wondering where Bashkim’s heart really lies, and what he’ll do about the wife he left behind.

Seventeen years later, headstrong and independent Luljeta receives a rejection letter from NYU and her first-ever suspension from school on the same day. Instead of striking out on her own in Manhattan, she’s stuck in Connecticut with her mother, Elsie—a fate she refuses to accept. Wondering if the key to her future is unlocking the secrets of the past, Lulu decides to find out what exactly her mother has been hiding about the father she never knew. As she soon discovers, the truth is closer than she ever imagined.

Told in equally gripping parallel narratives with biting wit and grace, Brass announces a fearless new voice with a timely, tender, and quintessentially American story.

My rating:  2.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I was interested in this book based on the description – I grew up about 15 minutes from Waterbury so I’m pretty familiar with the area and I was interested in reading a book centered around someone from there. It was fun to see so many local things mentioned in the book, like nearby towns and restaurants. Other than that though I couldn’t find much interest in the story line of the book. I found both POV’s to be immature and somewhat annoying. The plot of the story was also pretty depressing, and if I’m being honest the ending felt like a rip off and left a lot of things unresolved. The story line was interesting in some parts but overall was just not something that I personally enjoyed. I thought the author’s voice was very interesting and that she told the story well, it just wasn’t a story line that I personally found much enjoyment in.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2016 Book # 117 – Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

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Author: Anne Tyler
Date finished: 12/14/16
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction
Publisher: Hogarth
Publication Date: June 1, 2016
Pages in book: 240
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Kate Battista feels stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and uppity, pretty younger sister Bunny? Plus, she’s always in trouble at work – her pre-school charges adore her, but their parents don’t always appreciate her unusual opinions and forthright manner.
Dr. Battista has other problems. After years out in the academic wilderness, he is on the verge of a breakthrough. His research could help millions. There’s only one problem: his brilliant young lab assistant, Pyotr, is about to be deported. And without Pyotr, all would be lost.
When Dr. Battista cooks up an outrageous plan that will enable Pyotr to stay in the country, he’s relying – as usual – on Kate to help him. Kate is furious: this time he’s really asking too much. But will she be able to resist the two men’s touchingly ludicrous campaign to bring her around?

My rating:  3.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Kate Battista, a 29 year old woman who has gotten herself into something of a rut. After getting expelled from college, she moves back home with her father and her much younger sister Bunny. Kate ends up getting a job at a local preschool as an assistant and between that, taking care of her father’s household, and basically parenting Bunny, all of a sudden she realizes she’s 29 and has been stuck in the same routine for years. Really what wakes her up is a ridiculous idea that her father comes up with – for Kate to marry his research assistant, Pyotr, to keep him in the country. Pyotr’s visa is about to expire and Kate’ father is desperate to find a way to keep him so they can finish an important research project. At first Kate rejects this idea, thinking she deserves better, but as she spends more time considering Pyotr’s offer and the freedom it would afford her, Kate realizes this might be just the change she needs in her life.
Overall I liked this book. It was interesting how the book turned out, it didn’t end how I expected but I really enjoyed the ending. This book is a modern-day retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and since I haven’t read that one previously, I’d really love to read it now especially to see how parallel the story lines are. I did find Kate to be a hard character to connect with, I didn’t really understand why she put up with a lot of the things that she puts up with in the book but everything seems to work out ok in the end for her. Her cast of supporting characters (her father, Bunny, her aunt, etc) all seemed very self-absorbed and were only interested in what Kate was able to provide for them. It made for an interesting story though and I can feel Shakespeare’s influence in it even if I haven’t read this exact comedy of his before. This was an interesting book and was a fairly quick read, I would recommend it!

The bottom line: This was an interesting read, it was definitely different than my normal book choice. I think it would have been better if I had already read The Taming of the Shrew and could connect the stories. It was still a good read though, I would recommend!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #89 – We Never Asked For Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

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Title: We Never Asked For Wings
Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Date finished: 8/22/15
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: August 18, 2015
Pages in book: 320
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

From the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Language of Flowers comes her much-anticipated new novel about young love, hard choices, and hope against all odds.
For fourteen years, Letty Espinosa has worked three jobs around San Francisco to make ends meet while her mother raised her children—Alex, now fifteen, and Luna, six—in their tiny apartment on a forgotten spit of wetlands near the bay. But now Letty’s parents are returning to Mexico, and Letty must step up and become a mother for the first time in her life.
Navigating this new terrain is challenging for Letty, especially as Luna desperately misses her grandparents and Alex, who is falling in love with a classmate, is unwilling to give his mother a chance. Letty comes up with a plan to help the family escape the dangerous neighborhood and heartbreaking injustice that have marked their lives, but one wrong move could jeopardize everything she’s worked for and her family’s fragile hopes for the future.
Vanessa Diffenbaugh blends gorgeous prose with compelling themes of motherhood, undocumented immigration, and the American Dream in a powerful and prescient story about family.

My rating: 3.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will be counting towards my goal for ARC August reading challenge, it is #10 on list from my sign up post. I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I have seen this book a lot in the last month or two as a must read book for summer so when I saw it was available on NetGalley I thought I would try reading it. This is the story of Letty Espinosa and her two children, Alex and Luna. Letty’s mother has raised Alex and Luna since they were babies while Letty works three jobs. But when Letty’s parents suddenly move back to Mexico, Letty is forced to face motherhood in a way that she has never had to before.
I liked this book. It had an interesting story line and was different from anything I’ve read before. There are some political commentary undercurrents about immigration towards the end but mostly I think this book is about Letty’s character growing and discovering what it means to be a mother. I didn’t end up loving this book because I had trouble forming a deep connection with the characters. It was great to see the characters evolve through the story, especially Letty, but at the same time I couldn’t form a personal connection with the story. When Letty got Alex drunk I honestly couldn’t read the book anymore that day I was so disturbed. I loved how supportive Rick’s character was though, he was like a constant pillar of strength. And Luna is just a little cutie. I couldn’t understand how Letty’s parents could leave them so suddenly but its probably better that they did, it forced Letty to stand on her own two feet. While there were pieces of this story I didn’t love, I liked the book overall.

The bottom line: I thought this story had a sweet ending even if I did get a bit freaked out along the way. It was interesting to see the characters grow through the story. I would recommend!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page