Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin

Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin
Pub. Date: June 6, 2017
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Bloomsbury!)
Summary: After his mother’s death, eleven-year-old Marcus is sent to live on a small South Carolina island with his great aunt, a reclusive painter with a haunted past. Aunt Charlotte, otherwise a woman of few words, points out a ruined cottage, telling Marcus she had visited it regularly after she’d moved there thirty years ago because it matched the ruin of her own life. Eventually she was inspired to take up painting so she could capture its utter desolation.

The islanders call it Grief Cottage because a boy and his parents disappeared from it during a hurricane fifty years before. Their bodies were never found and the cottage has stood empty ever since. During his lonely hours while Aunt Charlotte is in her studio painting and keeping her demons at bay, Marcus visits the cottage daily, building up his courage by coming ever closer, even after the ghost of the boy who died seems to reveal himself. Full of curiosity and open to the unfamiliar and uncanny given the recent upending of his life, he courts the ghost boy, never certain whether the ghost is friendly or follows some sinister agenda.
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Coming of Age

Eleven-year-old Marcus has dealt with his share of disappointment and heartache. His single mom is struggling to make ends meet, bouncing around and ‘downsizing’ (as she puts it) with each move. He ruined his friendship with Wheezer, beat him to the point where it wasn’t clear if the boy would even survive. Seeing as how Marcus’s mother worked for the company owned by Wheezer’s family…yet another move is in their future. Despite their serious penny-pinching, Marcus and his mother live the best life they can, until the night of the car accident, the night the one person Marcus has in the world is swiftly and brutally ripped from him.

The only relative left is an elderly aunt Marcus has never met. Still, she’s appointed his guardian, and he’s escorted through airport gates to a new life on a South Carolina island. Aunt Charlotte is an artist, painting landscapes for those willing to pay, and there’s one cottage in particular that captivates tourists above all others: Grief Cottage. Half a century ago, a hurricane tore through the town and the family who lived in the home were assumed to have been swept out to sea. Naturally Marcus is fascinated – especially once he gets close enough to the ruins and feels an eerie presence.

Don’t go into Grief Cottage expecting an action-packed, edge-of-your-seat ride. That’s not what this book is, nor what it tries to be. When I was in high school, I was a huge anime fan and my favorite genre was known as slice of life. These shows were based in reality (sorry, no giant robots here!) and featured easygoing, meandering plots that were in no rush to get to where they were going. Grief Cottage reminded me of those shows as it tells the story of a little boy and the summer he spent on an island. There’s artwork, turtle hatching, finding a father-figure in a neighbor who has a taste for vintage cars.

While I love a good slow plot, one thing I was not a fan of was the ghost element. Take a second to read the book’s summary. It certainly sounds like this will be a ghost story, right? That’s definitely what I thought and was disheartened to discover that wasn’t the case at all. There are maybe three sightings of the dead boy throughout the entire novel and most of that arc surrounds Marcus’s desire to find out who the family was. While every other person involved with the hurricane is name-dropped in all the newspaper articles and novels Marcus can find from that time, the three out-of-towners who perished are merely glossed over. I would have loved to see more of this boy and watch his character develop.

Grief Cottage is a moody, atmospheric novel that certainly held me captive despite not being quite what I expected. Unfortunately, the blurb builds up the ghost element a bit too much, when in actuality, the sightings hardly amount to more than a few pages’ worth. I did notice several threads that trailed off (including the go-nowhere possible alcoholic turn of one character) and hopefully those loose ends will be tightened up in the finished version. Though I had some misgivings, I did enjoy this book and the cover alone makes it one to take home! That painting is gorgeous and captures to story so, so perfectly – bravo to the art department!


weekly wrap-up 6/4

• My first week back to work (after a much needed staycation!) was one that has me looking forward to my next chuck of time off. It was one of those weeks where anything that could go wrong did, including – of all things – my office phone dying on me. Definitely the icing on the cake and the weekend couldn’t come fast enough!

• While yesterday was beautiful and sunny, today is looking pretty stormy. I had wanted to head to the Arts Festival (my brother and his girlfriend are on their way there) but, yeah, I’m not going to risk it. Today is all about snuggling with the pups and, as I type this, our newest is curled up with Matt ♥!

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? My introduction to Taylor Jenkins Reid wasn’t as life-changing as I had hoped. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo sounded like a book right up my alley (a 70-something movie legend finally wants to share her story but will only do so if a no-name journalist is the one to write it) but turned out to be a huge disappointment. The Big Reveal wasn’t all that shocking (in fact, it seems to be author’s go-to secret when they need a ~scandalous~ twist) and Evelyn’s actions were far too selfish for her to gain my sympathy.

My May 2017 recap was full of new puppies and surprisingly great reads. I felt like May was a month that didn’t have much going for it book-wise, but looking back over my reviews, I enjoyed way more than I didn’t (though the bad reads were truly awful).


Second Chance Season by Liora Blake
I have never heard of this author before but I am SO in the mood for contemporary romances right now, so this couldn’t have arrived at a better time! Second Chance Season is the second book in the Grand Valley series, but it sounds like this is a series where each book follows different characters – and we all know how I’m a little notorious for reading books out of order anyway, so..! One of my ultimately guilty pleasures is a romance featuring total opposites: rich starlet with a poor average Joe, goody two-shoes meets the wrong side of the tracks, you get the idea. This book follows a country boy and a city girl and I’m seeing stars already. I’m even more intrigued about this first book, First Step Forward – pro-football player and an apple orchard owner! YESSSS! Thank you, Pocket books!


May 2017 Recap


• Every Mother’s Day my family does the Race for the Cure. We make a huge day out of it, get up early, half the crew stays behind to get brunch ready, the other half does the race. It’s always a blast!

• Our biggest news of the month is we brought home a new puppy!! He’s a Boston Terrier and the pudgiest little guy ever ♥ We love him already and I’m thrilled to say he gets along so well with Bay!

• I took some time off just before Memorial Day – my first since starting the new job – and even though it was more of a staycation, I definitely needed it.

• Looking back over what I read in May (including the books I didn’t review), I’m pleasantly surprised. I thought I had a fairly lackluster month in terms of books, but I’m realizing that wasn’t the case! ha, I guess the bad was just SO bad I forgot about the good.


THE GARDEN OF SMALL BEGINNINGS BY ABBI WAXMAN is a novel that’s sure to stay with me for months to come. This debut about a grieving widow should have been heartbreaking and tough to read, but it was the exact opposite. It was light, upbeat, and at times laugh out loud funny. The characters and their gardening class truly made this one shine and I’m thrilled to see what Abbi does next!

DUELS AND DECEPTION BY CINDY ANSTEY was such a joy to read! If you’re a fan of historical romance and YA, take note. A young heiress (already betrothed to someone her father chose before passing, naturally) is suddenly kidnapped along with a law clerk and oh this one was so, SO fun.

THE BOOK OF SUMMER BY MICHELLE GABLE is yet another homerun. Michelle is a fantastic author (and such a lovely person too!) and her books are always great. While her others have been set in/around Paris, this one is firmly rooted in the US – Nantucket specifically, and follows a family and the house they love from its heyday during WWII to the present as erosion is threatening to pull it into the ocean.

MURDEROUS MAYHEM AT HONEYCHURCH HALL BY HANNAH DENNISON is the fourth book in the Honeychurch Hall series – a cozy mystery series I fell hard for. A skeleton is discovered on the estate’s grounds just as a stream of tourists flock to town for the annual English Civil War reenactment. While this was an enjoyable read, one character in particular made me extremely angry and the book itself felt very much part of a series rather than standalone reads like the previous three. Newcomers to the series definitely shouldn’t start here, this book assumes you’re already well aware as to who these characters are!

LETTERS TO THE LOST BY BRIGID KEMMERER is a standalone contemporary (her very first) and I tore through it. A girl grieving her mother leaves letters on her grave. A boy doing community service at that cemetery happens to read one of the letters and writes back. For a book dealing with heavy topics like death and abuse, Letters to the Lost never felt weighted down or depressing. There’s a companion novel out next year that follows a side character and I can’t wait to read it!!

MAY MINI-REVIEW ROUND UP includes two excellent reads (a charming British novel and a nonfiction history book), an average YA thriller, and a HORRIBLE, AWFUL novel that’s getting so much buzz and is sure to be one of the beach reads this summer. Ugh.

THE PARTY BY ROBYN HARDING left me wanting more. The premise totally drew me in – a sweet sixteen birthday party comes to a tragic end and lives are turned upside-down – but I have to admit the story itself didn’t really do it for me. Ultimately I kept going to the end to see how it would wrap up…and was more than a little disappointed.

THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO BY TAYLOR JENKINS REID was…okay. For years I have been hearing nothing but praise for Reid’s work and was so excited to finally read one and I don’t know. A Hollywood legend wants to finally tell her story – and demands an unknown journalist be the one to help her tell it. In theory this sound would have been perfect. Reading it, however, I just couldn’t get past Evelyn’s appalling behavior. She’s selfish and cruel, particularly to the supposed love of her life, and I couldn’t get past that. In the author’s note, Reid states this one is completely different than her other novels so maybe there’s still hope!







The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Pub. Date: June 13, 2017
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Atria!)
Summary: Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Old School Hollywood

For years I have been hearing nothing but praise for Taylor Jenkins Reid. Back in 2013 I had the opportunity to review Forever, Interrupted, but passed on it, and have been regretting it ever since! So many bloggers and friends I trust absolutely adore this woman and anytime she releases a new book it’s a Big Deal and cause for celebration. Vowing not to repeat my mistakes, I immediately jumped at the chance when I saw this one was available for review.

Now in her 70s, Evelyn Hugo is considered a living legend. She rose to fame in the 50s and dealt with highs and lows (an Oscar nomination here, being blacklisted there) over the next few decades. These days she’s living a relatively secluded life in her lush New York apartment and is finally ready to tell her story – but only if a virtually unknown journalist is the one to write it.

Monique’s one claim-to-fame is a piece she wrote on assisted suicide. Several years and several magazines later, she’s fallen into a rut of fluff pieces, filler articles. Her personal life isn’t doing much better as she’s currently in the middle of filing for divorce – less than a year into her marriage. Her life seems to be spiraling out of control until she receives a coveted assignment: interviewing one of the most famous actresses to ever grace the screen. But why her? Why not one of the far more notable journalists? Why has Evelyn made it adamantly clear she will only agree to the interview if she gets Monique?

When I first heard about The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, I immediately thought of Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s June, one of my Top Reads of 2016 and a novel that also features a screen legend. I fell hard for Miranda’s novel (coincidentally my first of hers as well) and hoped to repeat that success with my introduction to Taylor’s work. I have to admit, while it certainly kept me hooked (it was a classic case of telling myself I’d only read one more chapter and before I knew it I had reached the end), once it was over, I realized Evelyn’s selfishness served as the novel’s downfall and made it extremely hard to love.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo isn’t the first novel I’ve read about a woman who is so ambitious and determined to get what she wants that she does whatever it takes to reach her goal. Nor will it be the last. I was fine with Evelyn’s initial plan to sleep her way into Hollywood. It was what came after that completely ruined her character for me. Those seven husbands? Only one marriage was for love. The other six were essentially games, strategic moves to either get what she wanted or to avoid rumors circulating. Sometimes the men were aware, sometimes they weren’t. At one point Monique asks Evelyn who her great love was – it’s revealed over the course of the book, but I was SO incensed at the way this poor character was treated by Evelyn. Selfish doesn’t even begin to describe her actions. Evelyn was so thoroughly and completely loved but she ultimately cared more about her fame and image – until it was too late, of course.

Normally I live for the past/present storytelling, but here, I just wanted to stay in the past. I never became invested in Monique’s character or her problems – though I will say my initial guess for why she was chosen by Evelyn was totally wrong and for that I’m glad. It would have been such an easy cop-out.

At 400 pages, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a decently-sized read, perfect for a rainy weekend or lounging at the beach. Although my introduction to Taylor Jenkins Reid (finally!) wasn’t as phenomenal as I had expected, I have to admit I wasn’t able to pull myself away from this one. Quick chapters and old Hollywood glamour completely sucked me in – though I didn’t care at all for Evelyn’s character. Her actions were simply too selfish and cruel and she received no sympathy from me. Early readers have said this novel is completely different from Reid’s other work (TJR even mentioned it herself in the author’s note) so I won’t swear off her other novels, but I’m left feeling disappointed.


weekly wrap-up 5/28

• Missed it last week? We brought home another puppy! He’s a 9-week-old Boston Terrier and Bay isn’t quite sure what to think of him. He’s an absolute blast though and such a porker at 6.4lbs haha!

• Matt and I both took some vacation time this week and I’m really not looking forward to going back to work Tuesday! I’ve pretty much been living in leggings and yoga pants and am SO not mentally prepared for real clothes.

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? Brigid Kemmerer’s Letters to the Lost dealt with some seriously heavy topics (death, abuse, suicidal thoughts) without every feeling weighed down and I’m thrilled to say I raced through this one! Though I looove her Elemental series, I was NOT a fan of Thicker Than Water and was worried this new standalone wouldn’t be up to par – how wrong I was!

May’s mini-review round up featured an assortment of good (a lovely British contemporary, a super fun non-fic), the okay (a YA thriller), and the awful (a VERY buzzed-about beach read).

When I first heard about Robyn Harding’s The Party, I knew I needed it in my life: a sweet sixteen birthday party takes a horrible turn for the worse. Though this wasn’t quite the gripping, intense thriller I had hoped for, it wasn’t bad and was just fine for an afternoon.

This week’s the saturday six includes a new Hanson song, Mister Rogers, NASA, and more!

Christmas in London by Anita Hughes
Aaaahhh, Christmas books already?? A New York baker finds herself thrown into the spotlight after the star of a show has a terrible allergic reaction. Louisa is whisked off to London a week before Christmas where she finds herself rubbing shoulders with some of the worst’s most famous celebrity chefs – including one who might be more into her than she bargained for. This is a Christmas novel, it’s going to be sweet and romantic and I’m on board! Thank you, St. Martin’s Griffin!

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker
Two weeks ago I received a copy of this one – looks like I’ll be doing a giveaway! Five years ago two sisters disappeared. Three years later only one returns and the forensic psychiatrist involved in the case doesn’t believe Cass’s story, something about it doesn’t quite add up. Thank you, St. Martin’s Press!

Unsub by Meg Gardiner
A thriller inspired by the Zodiac Killer? Sign me up! A serial killer dubbed The Prophet terrorized a city in the early 90s, leaving cryptic messages in his (or her) wake. Twenty years later, two bodies are discovered bearing a familiar symbol: is The Prophet back or is it just a copycat? Thank you, Dutton!


the saturday six.

• So, Hanson is back with a new song and it’s SUPER catchy. Totally a summery, windows down, kind of feel and I’m loving it!

• These photos of gorillas are stunning.

• Mister Rogers is very special to Pittsburgh and I can barely get through a sentence about him before I start sobbing. He was too good for this world. Someone recently compiled a graphic of every color cardigan he wore and I think it’s so cool.

• In more Pittsburgh news, there was a casting call for a new Lifetime movie! They’ll be filming in June, so heads up – I’m sure roads/areas will be closed (though when are they not lol #constructionseason).

• Thank you, science. Why flamingos stand on one leg.

• Did you see Nasa’s new photo of Jupiter??


The Party by Robyn Harding

The Party by Robyn Harding
Pub. Date: June 6, 2017
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Gallery!)
Summary: One invitation. A lifetime of regrets.

Sweet sixteen. It’s an exciting coming of age, a milestone, and a rite of passage. Jeff and Kim Sanders plan on throwing a party for their daughter, Hannah—a sweet girl with good grades and nice friends. Rather than an extravagant, indulgent affair, they invite four girls over for pizza, cake, movies, and a sleepover. What could possibly go wrong?

But things do go wrong, horrifically so. After a tragic accident occurs, Jeff and Kim’s flawless life in a wealthy San Francisco suburb suddenly begins to come apart. In the ugly aftermath, friends become enemies, dark secrets are revealed in the Sanders’ marriage, and the truth about their perfect daughter, Hannah, is exposed.
Genre: Adult, Mystery, Contemporary

While most girls in her affluent San Francisco neighborhood have an elaborate and over-the-top Sweet Sixteen, Hannah is perfectly happy having a quiet night in with a pizza and a few friends. While she’s not exactly gung-ho about the idea of sneaking booze and drugs into the basement, Hannah craves popularity more than anything – and now that Lauren, the single most popular girl in their entire school, has acknowledged her existence (and agreed to come to the party), Hannah is more than willing to bend her parents’ rules a little. …or maybe a lot. The girls have plans for sneaking some boys in (another no-no), including Noah, Hannah’s boyfriend. She knows he won’t be content with just kissing for much longer, but the thought of going further terrifies her (though she’d never admit that, she doesn’t want to look like a prude).

What should have been a fun (okay, and maybe a little boring and childish – would Lauren really consider Hannah to be cool if they spend their entire night watching PG movies?) sleepover quickly takes a turn for the worse as the girls pass around the bottles of alcohol and handfuls of pills they grabbed from their parents’ cabinets. Blood, a basement that’s been turned into a crime scene, a race to the hospital as one girl’s life hangs in the balance.

It’s no secret I love thrillers, but I have to admit they usually come off as feeling a little farfetched with premises I can’t imagine ever experiencing (chasing down serial killers, stumbling across dead bodies, discovering Matt has been living a secret double-life this entire time ha!), but The Party can so easily happen. Four teens have a bit too much to drink (despite the parents forbidding alcohol – and when do teens ever listen?) and a tragedy occurs. It has happened before, it will happen again.

Hannah’s parents were already suffering a rocky relationship (after Jeff accepted a small vial of LSD recently while away at a work conference); the sudden trip to the hospital and ensuing lawsuit throws their lives into a tailspin. Jeff begins working out a little more, staying out a little longer and putting off his return home as long as possible. Kim strikes up a flirtation with a co-worker, eager for some sort of adult connection. Though the girl does survive, she ultimately loses an eye and as her mother sues Jeff and Kim for millions, secrets begin to emerge.

I don’t want to give too much away, but the main reason I tore through The Party so fast (I read it in a single sitting) was because I wanted to see how the lawsuit would play out, if Lisa would win. The rest of the book (high school bullies, the whole Lauren thing, Kim’s potential affair) just didn’t interest me as much. It felt like the book was trying too hard to ramp up the drama but I really didn’t care and only kept reading to see how it would all end.

Though The Party is by no means a bad book (or a badly-written one, for that matter), I couldn’t help but feel let down. I wanted more from this book than I got and expected something a little more thrilling from the amount of buzz it’s been getting. It’s an incredibly fast read, so it certainly has that going for it, but I’ve read much better thrillers. Still, for a lazy afternoon read, you could do far worse.